2010-08-13 / Front Page

Folk Hero Status For Jet Blue AWOL

Faces Up To Seven Years In Prison
By Howard Schwach

The Belle Harbor flight attendant, who allegedly cursed out a Jet Blue passenger, exited the plane via an emergency chute and then absented himself from his job faces seven years in prison for his actions, yet has become something of a folk hero on the Internet, blogs and Twitter.

 

District Attorney Richard Brown identified the defendant as Steven Slater, 38, of 124 Beach 128 Street in Belle Harbor.

Brown said that the 38-year-old Jet Blue flight attendant, ending a flight from Pittsburgh to John F. Kennedy Airport, recklessly endangered the lives of ground crews by opening an emergency exit door and deploying the emergency chute after landing in New York.

Brown said, “The emergency chute deploys at 3,000 pounds per square inch within seconds and could easily injure or kill ground crews or others on the tarmac who are unaware the chute has been activated. This would have been a far different arraignment if someone had been standing under the emergency chute when it deployed.”

According to the charges, Slater was aboard Jet Blue Flight 1052 on Monday, August 9, 2010, at approximately 12:15 p.m., when he is alleged to have activated the aircraft emergency escape slide on door R-2, following an alleged incident involving a passenger.

Published reports say that Slater’s meltdown began when an unidentified passenger stood up to get her carry-on bag out of the storage over the seats before the plane had stopped moving.

When Slater told the passenger to sit down, the passenger reportedly cursed out the flight attendant.

The passenger pulled open the door, which hit Slater on the forehead, causing a large scratch.

Slater allegedly took to the plane’s intercom system to curse out the passenger.

“To the F____king asshole that told me to F___k off, it’s been a good 28 years,” Slater reportedly said.

Flight Attendant Steven Slater in photos from his Facebook page. Flight Attendant Steven Slater in photos from his Facebook page. He then grabbed his two flight bags and a can of beer and activated the emergency exit slide, throwing his bags on the slide and following them to the ground.

He jumped on the AirTrain and retrieved his car, driving to his Belle Harbor home.

Slater reportedly was in bed with his male partner when the police arrived to take him into custody.

Neighbors of his Beach 128 Street home were startled when specialized police units and helicopters, responding to a call of an emotionally disturbed person, suddenly inundated the block.

A number of social media outlets quickly made Slater into a media hero.

“How many of us have wanted to say, ‘Take this job and shove it,’” asked Joanna Molloy in her Daily News blog. “Slater did it and did it with flair, cursing back over the plane’s public address system at the obnoxious passenger who conked him on the head with a suitcase.”

“To all who deal with an increasingly rude, nasty group of customers who swear they are always right, Slater is our hero,” said patkeepsie391 in response to the blog. “He took an idiot who would not listen and would not apologize and who physically attacked Slater and instead of smiling he let loose with a string of colorful metaphors. Good for him. I hope he gets a judge who feels the same as him and lets him off and he finds a better job.”

All in all, more than 50,000 “friends” have left postings on his Face Book “wall” in the past three days.

Slater was arraigned Tuesday on charges of first- and second-degree reckless endangerment, second- and fourth-degree criminal mischief and third-degree criminal trespass and ordered to be held on $2,500 bail and to return to court on September 7.

A lawyer for the JetBlue flight attendant says his client did what any sane person would do.

“He had no altercation. He didn’t fight with any passengers,” lawyer Howard Turman said as his client pleaded not guilty to criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing charges. “He was trying to do his best in providing safety and you have rudeness and lack of courtesy among the traveling public. The woman was outraged and cursed him out a great deal. At that point, I think, he just wanted to avoid conflict with her.”

Slater, 38, wearing patterned shorts and a green T-shirt, did not speak during his arraignment.

His lawyer begged Queens Supreme Court Judge Mary O’Donoghue to release him with no bail, noting that Slater travels back and forth to California to care for his mother, who has lung cancer.

O’Donoghue set Slater’s bail at $2,500.

“I found him to be personable,” Turner said of Slater. “I think he can’t believe the amount of attention this is getting.”

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