David Soto-Jimenez Arrested for Interfering with Flight Crew
|FBI San Juan December 13, 2013|
SAN JUAN—Special Agent in Charge Carlos Cases of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) San Juan Division announced the arrest of David Soto-Jimenez for interfering with flight crew members and attendants. On December 12, 2013, Soto-Jimenez was taken into custody by the FBI and charged with interference with flight crew members and attendants.
A federal complaint states that on December 12, 2013, Soto-Jimenez traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico, via JetBlue Airways Flight 1743. This flight originated in Jacksonville, Florida, on December 12, 2013, at approximately 11:53 a.m. and arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, at approximately 3:47 p.m. Soto-Jimenez, a United States citizen, was assigned seat 11B, a seat that was located before the exit row of the aircraft.
The passenger sitting in seat 11B, later identified as David Soto-Jimenez, requested assistance from a flight attendant. JA, a flight attendant employed by JetBlue Airways who was on duty during JetBlue Airways Flight 1743, responded to Soto-Jimenez’s request for assistance call. Upon JA’s arrival, Soto-Jimenez asked why he could not recline/tilt back his assigned seat. JA explained that Soto-Jimenez was sitting on a row of seats prior to the emergency exit door of the plane and that those seats could not be reclined/tilted back by regulation. Soto-Jimenez attempted to forcefully recline/tilt back his assigned seat several times even though JA had explained that the seat could not be reclined. JA explained to Soto-Jimenez that he could move to another seat as soon as the “unfasten your seat belt” sign went off. Soto-Jimenez asked if he could move to a specific seat in the vicinity of his original seat. JA advised Soto-Jimenez that the seat he was referring to was a premium seat. JA explained that a premium seat is a seat that requires the client/passenger to pay an extra fee of $50. JA also advised Soto-Jimenez that he could sit at any other available seat for no charge as long as they were empty, excluding the premium seats.
Soto-Jimenez became extremely aggressive and started to yell at JA. At that moment, CR, a flight attendant employed by JetBlue Airways who was also on duty during JetBlue Airways Flight 1743, switched his assigned work area/section with JA in an attempt to defuse the situation. Soto-Jimenez stated, “Este maricon viene a decirme donde me puedo sentar” [sgent English interpretation: "This f—t comes to tell me where I can sit."]. CR offered Soto-Jimenez a seat in the back section of the aircraft, which he refused. Soto-Jimenez told CR, “Las ganas que tengo es de ir al frente y meterle un puño en la cara." At some point, Soto-Jimenez lifted his shirt showing his tattoos to CR and stated that JA did not know who he was. Further, Soto-Jimenez said that “I don’t have these for nothing,” making reference to his tattoos. CR advised Soto-Jimenez and his wife, who was traveling with him, that he needed to calm down or he could get arrested.
A discussion took place between crew members and the captain of JetBlue Flight 1743 regarding the next course of action to be taken in case the situation kept escalating. An alternative emergency plan was discussed to divert the original route of JetBlue Airways Flight 1743 to Orlando, Florida, but Soto-Jimenez calmed down, allowing the crew to continue working as the aircraft headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The incident was reported during the flight to JetBlue Security Department, which was subsequently relayed to Police of Puerto Rico (POPR) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Upon arrival in San Juan, Soto-Jimenez was contacted by POPR personnel and temporarily detained pending findings from a POPR investigation, as well as a response from the FBI.
If convicted, the defendant faces up to a maximum of 20 years for interference with flight crew members and attendants.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Justin Martin and is being investigated by the FBI.
The public is reminded that a criminal complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty. The U.S. government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.