LUBBOCK, Texas — Jerry Ba Nguyen, 24, of Las Vegas, appeared in federal court today and pleaded guilty, before U.S. Magistrate Judge D. Gordon Bryant, Jr., to interference with flight crew members and attendants, announced U.S Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
Nguyen, who has been in custody since his arrest in September 2016, faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing will be set at a later date by U.S. Senior District Judge Sam R. Cummings.
According to plea documents filed in the case, on September 22, 2016 Nguyen was a passenger on American Airlines flight 2542 in route from Ontario, California, to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which was diverted to Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, after Nguyen, knowingly interfered and attempted to interfere with the performance of the duties of a flight crew member and flight attendant, lessening their ability to perform their duties, by assaulting and intimidating the flight attendant and flight crew member by refusing to comply with instructions from flight attendants.
Nguyen came to the attention of the flight attendants as the plane was leaving the gate in Ontario, appearing agitated and walking toward the front of the aircraft as it prepared to take off. Flight attendants were able to calm him down, and the plane departed. After takeoff, however, Nguyen’s erratic behavior continued; he mumbled that the SIM card had been stolen from his phone and he made suicidal statements. He also stated that the police were not his friends, and the U.S. government was responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Nguyen was asked to remain in his seat by the flight crew on multiple occasions, but refused. Flight attendants were so concerned about his behavior that they recruited several passengers to assist with physically restraining Nguyen if it became necessary.
Upon final approach, Nguyen walked to the front of the aircraft and was near the cockpit door. Flight attendants instructed Nguyen numerous times that he needed to be seated for landing, but Nguyen refused to take his seat. Due to Nguyen’s proximity to the cockpit door, the lead flight attendant signaled other passengers to subdue Nguyen.
The Captain declared an emergency and diverted the flight to Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, where it landed safely. Nguyen was removed from the plane and taken into custody