JetBlue Flight Attendant Steven Slater Pleads Guilty

District Attorney says Slater was drunk on plane.

By Tim Minton
|  Thursday, Oct 21, 2010  |  Updated 3:55 PM EDT
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Exclusive security video footage of the moment <a title=JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater activated the emergency slide and launched himself into notoriety. Keep your eyes on the front of the plane. Read about the Slater video here. For more exclusives, follow NBCNewYork on Twitter" />

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Exclusive security video footage of the moment JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater activated the emergency slide and launched himself into notoriety. Keep your eyes on the front of the plane. Read about the Slater video here. For more exclusives, follow NBCNewYork on Twitter

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Former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who made an abrupt emergency chute exit from a plane at JFK - - and from his career -- has pleaded guilty to one count of felony attempted criminal mischief and one count of misdemeanor criminal mischief.

Slater will not go to prison. A one-to three-year sentence was delayed by Supreme Court Judge Marcia Hirsch. His deal requires that he enter a year-long mental health program and also receive substance and alcohol abuse counseling.

Slater also agreed to reimburse JetBlue $10,000 -- the cost for repairing the chute.

The steward's August 9 outburst became a global sensation as some considered him a hero of the working man after he initially said he had been hit in the head with luggage by a rude passenger.  Nobody was hurt as Slater famously grabbed a couple beers and slid out the plane's emergency chute.

Outside of Supreme Court in Kew Gardens, Queens, Slater said "While the public interest was surprising for me, at the end of the day I am a grown-up. I must accept responsibility for my actions."

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said of the plea: "I believe the defendant has finally recognized the seriousness of his actions...under the circumstances, the disposition fairly balances the seriousness of the charges against the need for the defendant's rehabilitation."

Brown even went further, confirming for the first time that the flight attendant was evidently not fit for duty on that fateful day at work. Asked if Slater was drunk on the plane, the District Attorney said, "Intoxication had something to do with that which transpired that day. Yes."

Under terms of the agreement, if Slater completes the program and counseling, and gets in no further trouble, he would be permitted to withdraw the felony plea next year. It would be replaced with a misdemeanor conviction at that time.

Should Slater fail to adhere to the terms of the deal, his sentence would revert to the full prison term and he would be forced to serve the one to three years.

The former flight attendant, who was fired by JetBlue after the incident, appeared in court dressed in a plain gray suit and told the judge in a soft, clear voice that he is "in fact guilty."

And NBCNewYork has learned that the flight attendant's famously abrupt exit via an emergency chute was the second time he's bailed out of his airline career. Law enforcement sources told NBCNewYork that Slater involuntarily departed from a flight attendant's job at Delta Airlines in 2003. He'd worked there for five years. The sources say the cause was issues related to mental health and angry treatment of passengers. Sound familiar?
 
Slater's LinkedIn profile shows a gap of several years before he returned in January of 2008 to work in the sky for JetBlue, a posting that delivered the 15 minutes of fame that officially expired Tuesday at the courthouse.
 
What job's next? Presumably he's done with flying for a living, although an FAA spokeswoman conceded Tuesday that the agency does not track firings of flight attendants to determine cause.
 
"Good luck with your life," said Judge Hirsch, as she dispatched Slater to a year of mental health and alcohol abuse counseling. 
 
Following his court appearance, Slater thanked his mother and his partner, Kenneth, saying "it is their kindness that has seen me through this ordeal."

(Reporter Jonathan Dienst contributed to this story.)

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