Man who assaulted HAL crew faces up to 20 years in federal prison

Sentencing scheduled for January 2017
fili@samoanews.com

An American Samoan man, accused by federal agents of “threatening to kill” flight attendants, faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced next January for interfering with the flight crew of a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Pago Pago to Honolulu, according to the plea agreement, which became publicly available this week.

Aumoeualogo Agaaoa Togia was charged in late July this year with a two-count indictment and last Friday he pled guilty to the first count of “interference with flight crew members and attendants” while the second count — simple assault — is to be dismissed during sentencing on Jan. 5, 2017.

Electronic court records show that the court will officially accept the guilty plea to count one during sentencing.

For the guilty plea, the defendant admitted he consumed alcohol prior to boarding the flight as well as during the flight from Pago Pago to Honolulu on the evening of July 11, according to the plea agreement, which also says that midway into the flight the defendant refused to comply with flight attendants’ instructions to take his seat due to the seat belt sign being on.

“Defendant became verbally and physically abusive, punched the lavatory door, and began yelling at the flight attendants and threatening to kill them,” the plea says.

Because of the defendant’s verbal and physical abuse, the flight attendants made the decision to restrain him for safety of both the crew and passengers.

“It took two flight attendants and two other passengers to restrain defendant,” the plea says, adding that the lead flight attendant of the initial disturbance notified the captain of the disturbance, who then declared a Threat Level 1 and cockpit lockdown.

Due to a subsequent update that the defendant had “become physically abusive” the captain then upgraded the status to a Threat Level 2.

As a result, the flight crewmembers were unable to leave the cockpit or take necessary breaks. “Duties of the flight crewmembers were severely impeded as a result of the defendant’s actions,” the agreement notes.

The agreement points out that all parties agree that the court is not bound by any stipulation entered into by the parties but may, with the aid of the pre-sentence report — which has already been requested from the US Probation Office — determine the facts relevant to sentencing.

Interfering with a flight crew is punishable by a term of imprisonment of not more than 20 years, a fine of not more than $250,000 and supervised release of not more than 3 years, according to the plea agreement.

Togia is out on $25,000 unsecured bond and living with a third-party custodian in Honolulu.

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