California Man Sentenced To Pay $50k To United Airlines After His Attack On Flight Attendant Caused Diversion

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A California man was sentenced to a $50,000 restitution payment and five years probation this week following his violent behavior on a Tokyo-bound United Airlines flight a year ago.

The alcohol fueled episode was caused as cabin crew refused to served the intoxicated passenger more alcohol after which he attacked and injured a flight attendant, threatening to kill the crew member.

The flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo was immediately diverted to Anchorage, Alaska where passengers and crew had to be accommodated overnight.

Instead of having sushi in Tokyo the passenger now found himself in the role of defendant in an Anchorage, AK federal courtroom this week awaiting sentencing.

The Anchorage Daily News reported that he got away with a blue eye so to speak, largely (ironically) due to Covid-19.

A man who attacked and threatened to kill a flight attendant last year was ordered Tuesday in federal court to repay the nearly $50,000 it cost to divert the plane to Anchorage and accommodate more than 200 passengers on board.

Seksan Kumtong — now 52 — had been acting strangely since boarding a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Narita, Japan, last February, Brenden Ryan, an FBI special agent in Anchorage, wrote in an affidavit supporting a criminal complaint. Crew members decided to cut him off from receiving alcoholic beverages and he fell asleep in his seat for a period of the flight, the affidavit said. After he awoke, he became agitated when he was denied another drink, according to the affidavit.

The agitation gave way to violence and the affidavit said Kumtong struck a flight attendant in the face and pulled them to the ground.

“I will kill you,” he shouted at the flight attendant, along with other obscenities, the affidavit said.

Kumtong, who is from North Hollywood, California, has suffered from uncontrolled diabetes for years, his attorney, assistant federal defender Sam Eilers, said in a sentencing memorandum. When combined with alcohol consumption, that can lead to “severe hypoglycemia and consequent combativeness,” Eilers wrote. He said the reaction in this case was not an excuse, but does partially explain why Kumtong acted so violently.

The flight was diverted to Anchorage and vouchers were provided for meals and hotel stays to the airplane staff and 214 passengers on board, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charisse Arce. In total, the diversion cost $49,793. …

Kumtong pleaded guilty in November to a charge of interference with flight crew members and attendants.

As Burgess sentenced Kumtong to the five years of probation, he acknowledged the role the pandemic played in the decision: Kumtong is especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because of his diabetes, and serving a sentence in a prison would put him at risk because the virus spreads rapidly in congregate facilities and Alaska’s correctional facilities have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Kumtong will also pay back the $49,793 in restitution.

I wonder if United will accept a United co-branded credit card in order to pay the $50k which would result in a good chunk of miles. I wouldn’t be surprised however if he was banned from both United and Mileage Plus following this situation. Maybe using an Amex Platinum for 5X on airline purchases would yield a better return and a more flexible currency.

Jokes aside as this is a rather serious matter I’m surprised that he escaped an actual prison sentence and instead incurred a 5 year probation simply due to Covid-19. The $50k in restitution is a slap on the wrist considering the defendant is able to avoid prison entirely.

Conclusion

The United Airlines passenger appeared already intoxicated when he boarded the flight at LAX and continued his alcohol consumption during the flight until he eventually leashed out on the crew. The diverted flight incurred significant costs which the now defendant will have to pay back to United in restitution. Aside from that all he got is a 5 year probation.

This pandemic is really a blessing in disguise for him. I wonder why the judge didn’t just defer a full prison sentence but it’s always hard to understand the outcome of a trial when one isn’t privy to the entire proceedings. Maybe his attorney was just really good in making a case for him, especially since he was represented by an assistant federal defender (public defender). The defendant must have been unable to afford his own attorney and struck gold twice by not only getting a good defense but also a mild sentence.

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