Joseph D. Hudek IV will be released to his mother so he can return home to Tampa, Florida, despite the government’s objections. However, he must travel by train or car and cannot fly, according to a magistrate judge in Seattle. .
The Florida man accused of going berserk on a Seattle-to-Beijing flight, beating passengers and crew members with a wine bottle before being subdued, has been ordered released from federal custody by a Seattle magistrate judge.
Joseph D. Hudek IV, 23, last month asked the court to reconsider its order detaining him following his arrest on July 6 after allegedly trying to open an exit door aboard Delta Air Lines Flight 129 while the Boeing 767 was over the Pacific Ocean.
Hudek says in new court documents that he’d eaten cannabis just before the flight and insists he poses no danger if he’s not high.
Magistrate Judge James Donohue on Tuesday released Hudek to his mother so he can return home to Tampa, Florida, despite the government’s objections. However, Hudek cannot fly and must travel by train or car. He also is barred from using cannabis.
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In releasing Hudek, Donohue said he was not downplaying the seriousness of the charges or the impact of his actions on not only the alleged assault victims, but also on the 210 passengers and other crew members on the jetliner whose lives were potentially put at risk.
“There is no doubt there was terror in the sky,” the judge said during a hearing in federal court in Seattle. One of the flight attendants, the judge said, “had the stuffing beaten out of him.”
But Donohue noted that Hudek has no other history of violence and no criminal record and found that any risks Hudek did pose could be mitigated by the conditions he imposed and monitoring by probation officers.
Hudek faces up to 10 years in federal prison for a count of interfering with a flight- crew member and from 20 years to life for four counts of assault on an aircraft with a potential deadly weapon. He is scheduled for trial Feb. 26 before U.S. District Judge John Coughenour.
According to federal charges, Hudek — whose mother worked for Delta — was flying first class on a “dependent pass” and became violent when two flight attendants tried to stop him from opening a cabin door. Federal agents said he was able to move the lever halfway up.
A melee ensued in which Hudek allegedly punched one of the attendants twice in the face, hit a male passenger in the head with a wine bottle and punched him several times.
A flight attendant grabbed two wine bottles and hit Hudek with both, breaking one over his head.
According to a complaint filed by the FBI in Seattle, “Hudek did not seem impacted by the breaking of a full liter red wine bottle over his head, and instead shouted, ‘Do you know who I am?’ or words to that effect.”
It ended up taking several passengers to restrain him before the plane returned to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, according to a federal complaint.
One of the flight attendants and a male passenger were treated for severe facial injuries, including bruising and bloody lacerations.
Hudek’s lawyers point out in court pleadings that no bones were broken.
Hudek has been in federal custody since then. However, his Seattle lawyer, Robert Flennaugh II, filed a motion asking the court to reconsider its detention order, saying Hudek can live with his parents in Tampa or an uncle in Texas, will have a job and will refrain from alcohol and marijuana.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Hobbs argued that Hudek should be detained, saying he chose to ingest the marijuana before the flight “and is responsible for the consequences of those actions … on a plane filled with hundreds of people.”
His attorneys have submitted more than 300 letters of recommendation to the court, arguing that he has no history of violence or substance abuse.
Hudek has filed an affidavit with the court stating that he purchased and ingested “edible marijuana” in Seattle just before his flight.
“Later, while on the airplane and after I had consumed the marijuana, I began to feel dramatically different,” Hudek said in the sworn document. The affidavit does not say how much edible marijuana he consumed.
Flennaugh also submitted an affidavit from Hudek’s personal physician, Dr. Joe Whitaker of Tampa, that known side effects of orally ingested marijuana can include paranoia, confusion, hallucinations and combativeness.