The mother of a toddler who was slapped during a flight has broken her silence, saying she was scared to death as a ‘drunk’ fellow passenger slapped her son after spouting off a racial slur, and now the man who did it is out of a job.
Jessica Bennett, 33, was aboard the Delta flight from Minnesota to Atlanta with her adopted son Jonah on February 8 when the boy began crying because he was feeling ‘the pressure in his ears.’
She said she was shocked to hear the man seated next to her, Joe Rickey Hundley, demand that she ‘shut that n****r baby up.’
She told ABC News: ‘I said, “What did you just say?” And he was so drunk that he fell onto my face and his mouth moved over to my ear and he said it directly into my ear.’
But she couldn’t have imagined what happened next, as Hundley allegedly slapped Jonah.
When I looked at Jonah’s face, his eye was swollen… and it was bleeding. I was just scared to death.’
Mrs Bennett, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, says Jonah was traumatized by the incident, and has become ‘apprehensive to strangers’ since.
Hundley’s lawyer Marcia Shein, told ABC News that no one should rush to judgment in her client’s case, and he will be pleading not guilty.
But the task of proving his innocence may be difficult as Bennett family attorney John Thompson told the network that there were numerous witnesses who saw Hundley strike Jonah – including a federal air marshal.
According to The Smoking Gun, Hundley has been charged with simple assault after the incident.
Hundley was charged with simple assault in federal court in Atlanta last week. If convicted, he faces a maximum of one year in prison.
The 60-year-old, who is the president of an aircraft parts manufacturer based in Idaho, denied slapping the child or using racial language. He claims that he did ‘ask the mother to quiet the child.’
Hundley was suspended from his job as president of Unitech Composites and Structures, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Al Haase, president and chief executive of AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group – Unitech’s parent company – said the firm was taking the matter seriously.
‘In accordance with our company’s personal conduct policy, we have suspended the employee pending investigation,’ Al Haase, president and CEO of AGC, said in a statement.
‘We wish to emphasize that the behavior that has been described is contradictory to our values, embarrassing and does not in any way reflect the patriotic character of the men and women of diverse backgrounds who work tirelessly in our business,’ Haase added.
The company later amended its statement adding that ‘he is no longer with the company.’
AGC did not specify whether Hundley was fired or if he left voluntarily.
Hundley said he was traveling to Atlanta to visit a hospitalized relative, described his emotional state as ‘distraught’ and that he had one alcoholic drink on the aircraft.
However, Bennett told The Smoking Gun that she believed Hundley was intoxicated. The mother said that he ‘reeked of alcohol’, was ‘stumbling around wasted’ and he consumed several double vodkas during the flight.
Bennett says Hundley told her that Jonah was too big to be a ‘lap baby.’
Agent Cheney added that Bennett received help from other passengers on the Delta flight.
Todd Wooten, who was seated 12 rows ahead, told authorities that he ‘heard derogatory language coming from the rear of the aircraft’ and went to see what was going on.
‘According to Mr. Wooten,’ Cheney wrote, ‘he saw Joe Rickey Hundley strike’ the child.
Hundley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault in a Virginia court in 2007 after he was arrested following a quarrel with his girlfriend.
He was first charged with simple assault, carrying a concealed weapon, and public intoxication. Hundley told The Smoking Gun that the weapon he was allegedly carrying was a corkscrew.