A federal judge today sentenced a man to eight months in federal prison for slapping a toddler on an Atlanta-bound flight. Joe Rickey Hundley pleaded guilty to simple assault in October as part of a deal with prosecutors. He was accused of hitting a 19-month-old boy under his eye while on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta, after telling the child's mother to "shut that [n-word] baby up." Prosecutors recommended a sentence of just six months in prison, but the judge said he was imposing a harsher one because Hundley had a prior assault conviction.
Before he was sentenced, Hundley apologized to the toddler's mother, who was in the courtroom. He explained that he'd been on edge—and drunk—because his son had just been declared brain dead, and he'd been flying to Atlanta to take him off life support. "I made the most terrible day in my life much worse for me and for others," he said. His lawyer said he'd taken steps to address his alcohol and anger issues. The judge sympathized, but said, "You cannot assault another individual, regardless of how sad or upset, or even how intoxicated or sick, you are."