Man in Hawaiian Air interference case pleads guilty to one count

fili@samoanews.com

An American Samoan man accused of interfering with Hawaiian Airlines flight crew two months ago has pled guilty at the federal court in Honolulu and will be sentenced early next year, according to federal court records.

Aumoeualogo Agaaoa Togia is accused of interfering with a flight crew, a federal crime with a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, according to the criminal complaint, which accuses the defendant of being belligerent on the flight, biting a flight attendant and threatening the flight crew.

The incident occurred in early July on a flight from Pago Pago to Honolulu. About three weeks later a federal grand jury in Honolulu handed down a two-count indictment against the defendant, who resides in Honolulu.

He pled not guilty in late July to both charges with trial set for later this month. Togia is out on $25,000 unsecured bond.

However, last Friday, the defendant appeared before the court for a change of plea hearing, where he pled guilty to count one: “interference with flight crew members and attendants”.

A memorandum of plea agreement was also presented during the hearing presided over by US District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi, but the agreement is not publicly available yet.

Electronic court records show that the court will accept the plea agreement on Jan. 5, 2017 — the date of sentencing, at which time Count 2 is to be dismissed. Kobayashi has also ordered a pre sentence report from the US Probation Office.

THE INDICTMENT

The indictment alleges in Count One that the defendant, as a passenger on Hawaiian flight 466, “did unlawfully and knowingly, by assaulting and intimidating a flight crew and a flight attendant, interfere with the performance of the flight crew member and flight attendant and lessen the ability of the flight crew and flight attendant to perform their duties on Hawaiian flight 466 from American Samoa to Honolulu.”

Count Two, according to the indictment, charges Togia with a “simple assault” of a “flight crew by willfully and intentionally touching and making physical contact with the flight crew in an offensive manner without justification or excuse.”

An FBI affidavit, which supports the criminal complaint, described the defendant as an “erratic male passenger” who was restrained to his seat with the help of two other passengers.

“Once the male passenger was restrained he started yelling that he wanted to kill the crew,” the affidavit alleges, based the FBI interview with the flight crew. It also alleges that the defendant assault a fight crewmember.

When interviewed by the FBI, the defendant said he “did not remember any details between talking with the crew members and then being restrained,” the affidavit alleges.

He also told the FBI agent that “I’m a bad drunk” and that, “he has no idea what happened or why he was in handcuffs,” Togia said.

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