An Idaho man has been charged with slapping a crying toddler aboard a Delta Airlines flight from Minneapolis as it was preparing to land in Atlanta on Feb. 8, the FBI said.
(Photo: Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS -- A man charged with slapping a toddler on a Minneapolis-to-Atlanta flight is out of a job, his former employer said Sunday.
Joe Rickey Hundley, 60, of Hayden, Idaho, is no longer an employee of AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group, Daniel Keeney of DPK Public Relations confirmed Sunday night.
Al Haase, president and CEO of AGC, issued a statement early Sunday that, while not referring to Hundley by name, called reports of behavior by one of its executives on recent personal travel "offensive and disturbing" and said he "is no longer employed with the company." Keeney would not say whether Hundley was fired or resigned. Hundley was president of AGC's Unitech Composites and Structures unit.
Hundley was charged last week in federal court in Atlanta with simple assault for allegedly slapping the 2-year-old boy during the Feb. 8 flight. His attorney, Marcia Shein, of Decatur, Ga., said Saturday that Hundley will plead not guilty. The charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail.
Shein did not immediately returned messages seeking comment left Sunday evening by the Associated Press. Hundley does not have a listed phone number.
The boy's mother, Jessica Bennett, 33, told the FBI their flight was on final descent into Atlanta when her 19-month-old son started to cry due to the altitude change. Hundley "told her to shut that (N-word) baby up," FBI special agent Daron Cheney said in a sworn statement. She said Hundley then slapped him in the face, scratching the boy below his right eye and causing him to scream even louder.
Bennett told Twin Cities television stations on Saturday that the incident has caused her family a great deal of trauma and that her son, Jonah, had been outgoing but had turned apprehensive of strangers.
Hundley became increasingly obnoxious and appeared intoxicated during the flight and complained that her son was too big to sit on her lap, she said.
"He reeked of alcohol," Bennett told KARE-TV. "He was belligerent, and I was uncomfortable."
Bennett said she was shocked by the racial slur she says Hundley used when Jonah started crying.
"And I said, 'What did you say?' because I couldn't believe that he would say that," she told WCCO-TV. "He fell onto my face and his mouth was in my ear and he said it again but even more hateful. And he's on my face, so I pushed him away."
Bennett and her husband are white, while Jonah, whom they adopted, is black.
"We wish to emphasize that the behavior that has been described is contradictory to our values, embarrassing and does not in any way reflect the patriotic character of the men and women of diverse backgrounds who work tirelessly in our business," Haase said in his statement.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.