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Flier Charged Over Tantrum Says He Was Just Being 'Rude'

Justin Riley Brafford is fighting back over his October arrest
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2019 1:32 PM CDT
Updated Aug 10, 2019 8:00 AM CDT
In this April 13, 2018, photo, a Southwest Airlines plane taxis at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(Newser) – Justin Riley Brafford was arrested last October over what happened on a Dallas-bound Southwest Airlines flight: He allegedly tried to flirt with the woman sitting next to him, going so far as to touch her multiple times. She asked the crew to move her, but Brafford allegedly approached her in the new seat. A male flight attendant then told Brafford to "leave it alone," angering the 29-year-old, who allegedly shouted profanities at the crew member for about half an hour. Brafford was quiet after that, but the plane made an emergency landing in Albuquerque where he was arrested by the FBI. He's charged with the felony of interfering with a flight crew and faces up to 20 years if convicted. Denied bond, Brafford has been behind bars since the incident. In a new legal filing he argues that he's being unfairly punished for simply acting "rudely," reports the Dallas Morning News.

Brafford, an admitted drug addict who had just been released on parole and was traveling to Dallas to stay with his aunt when the incident occurred, is challenging the federal law under which he is charged. He says it's vague and unconstitutional; a US prosecutor counters that it correctly criminalizes speech and actions that keep a flight attendant from doing his or her job, and that Brafford's behavior qualified. But Brafford's lawyer says his client never disobeyed, threatened, or touched the flight attendant (he is not charged with anything relating to his female seatmate) and that he was charged simply for "deviating from the socially acceptable norms of airline travel." A bench trial is scheduled for the end of August. (An alleged groper on another Southwest flight quoted Trump.)

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