Ohio man who groped flight attendants gets 60 days in prison

An Ohio man who had to be restrained in his seat with tape after groping and assaulting flight attendants during a flight from Philadelphia to Miami last year has been sentenced by a federal judge to 60 days in prison.

Maxwell Berry, 23, also was sentenced by US district judge Robert Scola Jr to a year of supervised release after his jail time.

Berry was ordered to report to prison by 1 August, which would be one year after he was taken into custody at Miami international airport following the incident on Frontier Airlines that came amid reports of rising incidences of “air rage” by passengers.

Berry, of Norwalk, Ohio, had pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and faced up to 18 months in prison.

The incident was captured in cellphone videos that went viral, bringing attention to the risks faced by flight attendants due to a growing number of unruly passengers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Maxwell Berry in a booking photo.
Maxwell Berry in a booking photo. Photograph: Miami-Dade County Department of/AFP/Getty Images

Berry had been drinking alcohol and went to the airplane’s bathroom after spilling a drink on himself. He came out of the bathroom without his shirt on and a flight attendant helped him get a clean one out of his bag, according to a police report detailed by WPLG, a local ABC TV affiliate in Miami.

After walking throughout the cabin for several minutes, Berry groped the breasts of multiple flight attendants and then punched a male attendant in the face, according to the police report.

Passengers helped restrain Berry, who was bound into his seat with tape for the remainder of the flight.

In an emailed statement, Berry’s lawyer Jason Kreiss said the incident was “truly an aberration” in his client’s life.

As pandemic restrictions lift, cabin crew across the US have been grappling with an unprecedented rise in unruly passenger behavior, especially as the industry continues to deal with employee shortage, growing travel demands and a highly politicized federal mask mandate.

“They seem to be the most upset and frustrated and definitely need the most reminding about following rules for air travel,” Molly, an eight-year flight attendant for a major US airline, told the Guardian.

“Many seem to take it as a personal attack rather than just a reminder about the contract they signed [when booking their tickets], agreeing to wear a mask throughout their journey.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Sara Nelson, the president of the national flight attendants’ union and a 25-year flight attendant, said: “This is happening every day now.”

In September, Nelson testified before the US House and pleaded that the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Justice institute a “zero-tolerance” policy for abusive passengers and pursue criminal prosecutions.

A union survey last July revealed that nearly one in five flight attendants say they have been subjected to a “physical incident” this year with a passenger.

Last August, the FAA asked airports to more carefully monitor alcohol sales, especially in to-go cups.

source: theguardian.com