NEW YORK, New York — (DMN) – A flight attendant on a weather-delayed plane at LaGuardia Airport in New York City yelled at passengers and challenged them to leave the plane if they dared. The incident involving American Eagle flight attendant Jose Serrano was caught on video. Flight 4607 to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., was delayed for five hours on Monday. The New York Post is reporting that American Eagle attendant Jose Serrano got so agitated at one point that the six-year veteran dared terrified passengers get off the plane if they “had the balls” to do it, witnesses said. “I’ve been in five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said 47-year-old Army veteran Scott Custer. “I’ve been in combat and I’ve never felt anxiety like I did sitting on that plane.”
The plane pandemonium on Monday — which comes on the heels of several high-profile air-rage incidents — was set in motion when passengers on a scheduled 1:25 p.m. flight to Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina were prevented from boarding until nearly 4 p.m. because of rain. Port Authority police were called to the plane on reports that Serrano was making inappropriate comments over the PA system. American Airlines apologized for the incident. It said in a statement: “We do not believe that the passengers’ frustrations were always met with the level of service that we expect from our people, and for that we are truly sorry.” Serrano was removed from the plane. There were no arrests. Some passengers refused to fly on the plane if Serrano was on board.
Several passengers refused to take off with Serrano on board — and at least three families left the plane with their kids, sources said. A law-enforcement source said that the flight was canceled because the plane did not have the required number of flight attendants, after Serrano was removed for questioning. But American Eagle claimed the cancellation was due to strong rain. The airline, as a matter of policy, refuses to reimburse passengers for hotel expenses if their flight is rescheduled or canceled due to weather. Airline spokesman Ed Martelle said American Eagle — the regional arm of American Airlines — is investigating the incident. Martelle also said officials have determined that Serrano was not drinking. However, he conceded that the flight attendant was not given a breathalyzer test.
1:25 p.m. — American Eagle flight 4607 is scheduled to leave LaGuardia and travel for about two hours to Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina.
4 p.m. — After being delayed due to rain, passengers finally board the plane and head to runway — where they get stuck behind about 20 planes waiting to take off.
4:40 p.m. — Pilot turns plane around to refuel. All passengers leave the aircraft.
6 p.m. — Everyone is allowed to re-board. A few minutes later, flight attendant Jose Serrano loses his cool and tells passengers over the intercom, “If anyone has the balls to want to get off, I’ll let you get off! Get off!” Some passengers say he looked intoxicated. Police are called to the plane and interview Serrano and a few passengers — later determining he was not intoxicated, despite not giving him a breathalyzer test.
8 p.m. — Flight is canceled. Passengers are sent to hotels without refunds.
CBS News contributed to this report.
Police in the United Kingdom are camped out at the Ecuadorian embassy waiting for Wikileaks founder-in-chief Julian Assange to come out but Assange has declined a Metropolitan Police order to surrender himself at a police station, his representative has said. Susan Benn said he was advised to “decline to comply” and will remain inside the Ecuadorian embassy while his application for asylum is processed. Officers from the Met’s extradition unit delivered a note to Mr Assange at the London embassy on Thursday. He wants to avoid being sent to Sweden to face rape and assault accusations.
The police letter required that the 40-year-old surrender himself to Belgravia police station at 11:30 BST on Friday. Under international diplomatic arrangements, the police cannot go into the embassy to arrest Mr Assange. In a statement read out on his behalf by Ms Benn, Mr Assange said: “This should not be considered any sign of disrespect. Under both international and domestic UK law asylum assessments take priority over extradition claims. “The issues faced by Mr Assange are serious. His life and liberty and the life and liberty of his organisation and those associated with it are at stake,” said Ms Benn, a committee member of Mr Assange’s defence fund.
The Wikileaks website published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses. Mr Assange fears that if he is sent to Sweden he could be sent on to the United States to face charges over Wikileaks and that there, he could face the death penalty. Ms Benn said: “Mr Assange did not feel safe from US extradition in the UK. We are all too aware of the abuses of the US-UK extradition treaty. Although Mr Assange has been trapped in the UK under dangerous circumstances, he has at least had the freedom to apply for political asylum. “It is in this context that Julian has made the difficult decision to seek refuge inside the Equadorean embassy to ask for asylum. Julian will remain in the embassy under the protection of the Equadoran government while evidence for his application is being assembled and processed.”
LACKLAND AFB, Texas — (DMN) – An Air Force Military Training Instructor bragged to a colleague that he’d had sex with a trainee in a supply room before she left for technical training school, according to testimony at Thursday’s evidentiary hearing against Staff Sergeant Craig LeBlanc, one of 12 instructors under investigation at Lackland for illicit sexual relationships with trainees. “I believe he said he’s just gotten laid,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Beck, who ultimately reported the conversation to authorities at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. “I was speechless,” Beck said. “I didn’t understand.”
Beck testified as part of the Article 32 hearing against LeBlanc, who is charged with aggravated sexual assault, obstruction of justice, adultery, violating a no-contact order, absence without leave and making a false official statement. An Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury, can be the first step to a court-martial. If LeBlanc is ultimately found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison. Beck was the first to testify Thursday, after the defense and prosecution wrangled over whether LeBlanc’s current live-in girlfriend, who is also a former trainee, could be compelled to testify.
LeBlanc is under investigation at Lackland for illicit sexual relationships with trainees. The latest two trainers were charged Tuesday; six so far could face court-martial. Meanwhile, Gen. Edward Rice, commander of the Air Education and Training Command, said in Washington on Thursday that 31 female victims have been identified in the widening sex scandal. All remain in the Air Force, he said.The prosecution spent a good deal of time establishing the control trainers have over recruits during 8½ weeks of boot camp and whether they still have that control between the Friday when they graduate and early Monday morning when they leave Lackland.
The Air Force prohibits any kind of romantic relationship between training instructors and students. LeBlanc is accused of the sexual misconduct with a trainee after she’d graduated but before she’d left the base. “You’re not safe until you get to tech school,” said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Sklenar, who, like Beck, went to military officials after hearing rumors about LeBlanc and other military training instructors (MTIs) with the 331st. “Did you always follow an MTI’s orders?” prosecuting attorney Capt. Kaylynn Shoopasked the airman, 19. “We didn’t have a choice,” she said. “Nothing an MTI says is with a question mark.”
It always was made abundantly clear, she said, that not following an order would have an adverse effect on a recruit’s career in the Air Force.She testified that LeBlanc and another military trainer, Staff Sgt. Kwinton Estacio, urged her and another recruit to meet them in the supply room. The pair “pinky swore” that they wouldn’t have sex with the men. Estacio’s Article 32 hearing was June 2; no decision has been announced by the Air Force on whether a trial will be ordered in his case.
LeBlanc’s civilian defense attorney, Joseph Jordan, tried to begin his questioning by asking her what kind of men she was attracted to, but the prosecution successfully objected. Later, he asked her what kind of panties she was wearing and whether she was aroused. “Did it make you feel good?” he asked. “It was uncomfortable,” she replied. After leaving the supply room, she went straight to the bus stop, she testified, where, she said she felt “blank.” Jordan also asked about the term “rape.” “I never put that word to it,” she said, until after she was questioned by investigators.
Koehler, who was not in LeBlanc’s training unit, first denied to investigators that she had a sexual relationship with him, but admitted Thursday that she had lied. But she continued to insist she did not begin having sex with him until after she had graduated. Koehler said she was at LeBlanc’s house when he, Estacio and another instructor, who has admitted to involvement with 10 women, schemed to hide their actions from investigators. Prosecutors worked to show that Koehler has reason to minimize the gravity of LeBlanc’s actions. She told prosecutors she knew he was married but was in love with him and wanted to marry and have children with him; so she was upset to find “flirty” texts from the airman he’s accused of sexually assaulting. The hearing resumes today.
The San Antonio Express-News and CBS News contributed to this report.