Woman who punched flight attendant on probation
Associated Press Writer
DENVER, Colorado – A federal judge on Friday called a woman who punched a flight attendant earlier this year a “mean drunk,” but he spared her from prison in a separate assault case.
U.S. District Judge John Kane in Denver gave 36-year-old Christina Elizabeth Szele (ZELL’-ee) credit for four months of time served and placed her on three years of supervised probation for a charge in March in which she allegedly punched her sister-in-law and pulled her hair in her hometown of Queens, N.Y.
Szele had pleaded guilty in February to interfering with a JetBlue crew member who tried to stop her from smoking on a flight from New York to San Francisco last year. She was on probation at the time of the March incident in Queens.
Szele pleaded guilty to violating her probation by drinking. A second probation violation charge for the New York case is pending.
Although Kane spared Szele from 20 months in prison, he warned her that this is her final chance and faces prison the next time she gets in trouble. He also chided her for her alcohol abuse.
“I think you understand that a lot of people can go out and get loaded to the till and just fall asleep,” Kane said. “And there are other people – in the language of the streets – ‘So and so is a mean drunk.’ And you are.”
In the June 2008 JetBlue assault, Szele had two beers at home before the flight and blamed flight attendants for serving her three vodka drinks on the plane, according to the complaint. She told police she didn’t remember smoking on the plane or hitting anyone.
The FBI said crew members restrained Szele with plastic handcuffs, but she broke them and punched a flight attendant in the jaw. The pilot diverted the plane to Denver, where Szele was arrested.
Szele’s attorney, Kathryn Stimson, told the judge Friday that her client was very embarrassed to be back before the court. Stimson asked Kane to release Szele from jail Friday for her latest run-in with authorities.
Szele apologized to the judge, saying: “I screwed up.”
Kane ordered Szele to remain in jail for another 10 days, and he forbade her from living in or visiting New York. Kane said that would pose too many distractions.
Szele is also barred from traveling on airplanes during her supervised release, and Kane ordered her not to drink alcohol and to undergo mental and drug and alcohol treatment.
“You’re a valuable person with a lot of talent, and you’re your own worst enemy,” Kane said.