April 20, 2019

Air rage charges hard to impose Foreign affairs nix U.S. indictments

BANGOR – Federal prosecutors on Tuesday cited a combination of factors in their decision not to file charges against the latest batch of British nationals accused of diverting overseas flights to the city’s airport last week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James McCarthy said because both airlines involved were foreign-owned and had no U.S. origin or scheduled U.S. destination, prosecutors had their hands tied in terms of charging the three men for their alleged actions aboard the two jets.

“When it’s Delta or U.S. Airways, that’s one thing,” said McCarthy, adding that charges also could have been brought if the alleged disturbances had happened while the plane was in U.S. airspace. “We just didn’t have jurisdiction.”

McCarthy said British prosecutors still could pursue criminal charges against the three passengers, all of whom were traveling between England and Mexico on British-owned airlines.

State prosecutors did file charges against one man, Kevin Sibley of Northampton, England, for drug possession and failure to submit to arrest. On Monday, a judge sentenced Sibley, 34, to three days in Penobscot County Jail and ordered him to pay $800 in fines.

All of the charges stemmed from Sibley’s actions on the ground, prosecutors explained, and not his alleged actions in the air, where state and federal authorities lacked jurisdiction.

Sibley was arrested after allegedly getting drunk and assaulting his girlfriend aboard a Britannia Airways flight en route from London to Cancun, Mexico. Crews struggled to restrain Sibley, who resisted attempts to remove him from the plane.

After his arrest, Bangor police discovered the drugs Ecstasy and hashish in his pockets. After posting $1,500 cash bail, he was arrested again after a disturbance at his hotel room.

In a separate incident, two other Brits, John Ward, 55, and Robert Doherty, 38, caused a second diversion to Bangor International Airport on Friday after allegedly becoming unruly after drinking alcohol on a British Airways flight from Mexico City to England.

While no federal charges were brought against the men, Bangor Police charged both with disorderly conduct stemming from their alleged conduct on the ground.

Each posted $150 cash bail and returned to England.

Penobscot County Deputy District Attorney Michael Roberts said Tuesday that he was unaware of any pending charges against Ward and Doherty.

“We’re not going to go looking for them,” he said.

In a Monday interview, Doherty denied wrongdoing but said he anticipated a lawsuit by British Airways, which might look to recoup costs associated with the diversion to BIA.

The Bangor airport has hosted a number of “air rage” diversions in the past two years, with Bangor Police responding to at least nine incidents since 1999.

Federal charges of interfering with a flight crew have been brought in several of those cases, with sentences in the most serious cases ranging from 60 days to six months in jail and fines reaching $5,000.

Correction: A headline on Page B1 of Tuesday’s paper contained an incorrect reference to a violation committed by a British man involved in an air rage incident at Bangor International Airport. The headline should have stated a bail violation resulted in the man’s being sent to jail.

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