Air passenger jailed for slapping toddler on flight

Ceri Roberts

A former aerospace executive has been sentenced to eight months in prison after slapping a crying toddler while on a flight, and subjecting him to racist abuse.

The incident happened in February 2013, on a Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta. Joe Rickey Hundley, 61, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour assault charge in October. Prosecutors had recommended a six-month prison sentence, but the judge took a tougher line.

Mr Hundley's solicitor explained that her client had flown to Atlanta to switch off his dying son's life support after an insulin overdose. She said that he was emotionally distraught and was also an alcoholic.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Mr Hundley apologised in court to the child's mother. He said: "I'm very sorry. I made the most terrible day in my life much worse for myself and others."

Mr Hundley was accused of directing a racial slur towards the child when he started crying as the plane descended. The child, who was 19 months old at the time of the incident, is black and his adoptive mother is white. Mr Hundley is also white.

Mr Hundley was fired from his executive position at AGC Aerospace & Defense after the incident.

Ms Bennett called him a "socially underdeveloped racist" and a bully. She said that four years ago she and her husband had to remove their three-week-old baby from life support but did not react violently as a result of their grief.

Sky News reports that the judge imposed a higher sentence partly because of Mr Hundley's criminal history, which includes a prior assault.

US Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman said that Mr Hundley's loss did not excuse his actions. He said: "You cannot assault another individual, regardless of how sad or upset, or even how intoxicated or sick you are."

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