Meet Joe Rickey Hundley, 60, of Hayden, Idaho who allegedly responded to an irritable flight by getting himself arrested and later fired from his job as a company executive at a defense contractor. Hundley was on a Delta flight when he allegedly slapped a 19-month-old boy who was crying.
Delta Flight 721 that originated in Minneapolis and the toddler’s mother, Jessica Bennett, 33, said that she went to the rear of the plane to get away from Hundley who smelled of alcohol and had slurred speech. During the descent to Atlanta, the boy began to cry (not an uncommon reaction of babies) and that is when Hundley is accused of slapping the baby. Hundley reportedly said “shut that n****r baby up” before slapping Jonah. Not surprisingly, the slap did not make Jonah stop crying, but it did bring other passengers to Bennett’s rescue. The slap reportedly left a scratch beneath the child’s right eye. One other passenger gave a statement saying that the racial slur was used.
Hundley was charged with assaulting a minor in the February 8 incident. After first being suspended by AGC Aerospace & Defense, he was fired by the company which that that “reports of the recent behavior of one of our business unit executives while on personal travel are offensive and disturbing . . . As of Sunday, the executive is no longer employed with the company.”
Hundley’s attorney, Marcia Shein, however, objected to how “this has escalated into a racist issue and I want to be clear he is not a racist.” The key, I suppose, would be to confirm that he did not call the baby a vile racist name. It is hard to say such a thing and not be a racist. However, you still have the problem of slapping a baby on a plane. Even if you show that he did not use the racial term, that would leave your client as a baby slapper. However, with the witness, the record suggests that he is not just a baby slapper but a racist baby slapper.
Simple assault on someone under age 16 carries a prison sentence of one year.
Alcohol is clearly a factor here and we just saw a case where a drunk prosecutor was able to get out of a serious criminal charge by claiming that he was so drunk that he lacked intent to strangle a paramedic.
Notably, however, in 2007, Hundley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge filed in Virginia.
What would be interesting is to see if the family will sue in tort for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They could also sue the airplane under a dram shop type claim for “over-serving” a passenger.