A man whose behavior prompted a New York City-bound flight to return to Honolulu said he doesn't remember what happened, but he doesn't dispute accounts that he was threatening and aggressive.
James August pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Honolulu to interfering with a flight crew. "I don't remember much, your honor," he said when the judge asked him what happened.
But he said he doesn't dispute a prosecutor's summary of what happened on the Nov. 29 Hawaiian Airlines flight.
Before takeoff, August's girlfriend was seated with her three children one row from August. A crying 11-year-old-old boy got a flight attendant's attention and said, "Please keep him away from us," Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Brady said.
August had been drinking before and during the flight, according to court documents.
During the meal service, the girlfriend's 16-year-old son told a flight attendant August called her a derogatory word, insulted the children, and made life-threatening comments, the document said. When the flight attendant asked August to go with her to another part of the plane, he slapped her shoulder with the back of his hand, the document said.
Brady in court said August "touched" the flight attendant and that she felt threatened.
August was yelling and swearing, and crew members feared he would harm his girlfriend, Brady said.
The captain decided to turn the plane around. August was arrested after the flight returned to Honolulu.
August faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when he's sentenced on May 22. It's also possible he'll have to pay restitution. It's not clear if Hawaiian Airlines will seek any damages from having to turn the plane around, Brady said.