BANGOR — A Florida man was released from jail Thursday after being charged with two counts of assault aboard a Delta Air Lines flight diverted here on Christmas Day.
Robert C. Fritz, 29, was released on $10,000 unsecured bail into the custody of his sister, who said the incident was not “air rage,” but an overreaction by the flight crew to one of her brother’s “bipolar episodes.”
Fritz is the fourth passenger since May to be arrested in Bangor after in-air disturbances. He had been held since his arrest in the Penobscot County Jail pending the detention hearing.
If convicted, he faces up to six months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine for each assault count.
Tracy Fritz-Summerall, 31, of Gainsville, Ga., said in a phone interview Thursday that her brother was diagnosed as being bipolar two years ago when he was living in Nashville, Tenn. Patients with the disorder exhibit both manic and depressive episodes. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and a candidate for a master’s degree from San Francisco State University, Fritz had been visiting friends in Europe and researching a book until Dec. 24, according to his sister.
“He called me Christmas Eve day to ask if he could come visit for the holidays and stay with me for a while,” said Fritz-Summerall. “He said he was better now. A year-and-a-half ago he was very ill. He sounded happy to be coming home. The next day, I got a phone call that he was in jail.”
Fritz, who was described as smelling of alcohol, allegedly jabbed a relief pilot with his finger and shoved a flight attendant from behind after becoming belligerent on the flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta, according to an FBI affidavit and city police records. Two passengers reportedly helped crew members subdue Fritz, who was restrained with handcuffs until the Boeing 67 carrying 197 passengers was diverted to Bangor International Airport.
Fritz-Summerall said her brother was held in the cockpit area and not allowed to use the bathroom, despite repeated requests. She said he was forced to urinate in his pants and not allowed to change clothes until after his arrest in Bangor. Fritz-Summerall said Fritz became angry when Dutch crew members began criticizing the United States. He then confronted them, she said.
Fritz admitted to drinking three free glasses of champagne on an empty stomach, which he should not have had due to his bipolar condition, according to his sister. Fritz-Summerall added that Fritz was not taking prescription medication, but was treating his condition using a holistic approach, including taking herbs and vitamins and practicing meditation. She said he also suffered from hypoglycemia — low blood sugar.
In court Thursday morning, Fritz wore a T-shirt with a logo from the television program “Friends” and a pair of bluejeans, obviously too large for him. After the hearing, Fritz told his court appointed lawyer, Perry O’Brian, that he did not have a winter coat. He had no money for transportation from Bangor to Gainsville, according to his siter.
Under the conditions of his release, Fritz agreed to restrict his travel to Maine for court appearances, and Georgia. He also must submit to urine analysis testing upon demand of his supervising officer and participate in mental health counseling and treatment. No date has been set for a trial.
Fritz-Summerall said she was hopeful the charges would be dropped due to her brother’s bipolar disorder. She added that the family was seriously considering suing Delta for the treatment her brother received onboard Flight 39.