Former JetBlue Attendant Slater Pleads Guilty
NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS/WCBS 880/AP) — It’s case closed for JetBlue’s most infamous flight attendant.
On Tuesday, Steven Slater pleaded guilty to charges related to his on-the-job meltdown.
There will be no jail time, but there is a catch, reports CBS 2’s Jay Dow.
Queens prosecutors said Slater was likely enraged and embarrassed — and possibly intoxicated — when he reportedly cursed out a passenger, grabbed a couple of beers and made his dramatic exit for a plane at John F. Kennedy Airport back on Aug. 9.
But it was a humbled Slater who appeared in a Queens criminal courtroom Tuesday to plead guilty to felony and misdemeanor counts of attempted criminal mischief.
“While the public interest in this case was certainly surprising, unexpected, and encouraging, at the end of the day I am a grown adult and must accept responsibility for my actions. Therefore, I’m looking to continue on moving forward with my life. And I’m very grateful to the court for making these arrangements, which will allow me to do so,” Slater said.
Those arrangements include avoiding one to three years behind bars if he successfully completes a year’s worth of mental health treatment, all part of a plea deal with the Queens DA’s office. Slater must also reimburse JetBlue Airlines $10,000 — the cost of deploying that emergency chute.
Slater’s departure made him a folk hero to put-upon workers everywhere who have fantasized about quitting in a blaze of glory. He was a topic on TV shows, on the Internet and on the front pages of newspapers, with many cheering him for standing up to the often-inhospitable world of airline travel, and others accusing him of childish and dangerously reckless behavior.
Slater was initially charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing and faced up to seven years in jail.
“Mr. Slater felt somewhat humiliated after what he perceived as degrading working conditions, and he had a level of rage at the time that was perhaps exacerbated by alcohol intoxication and maybe some other contributing stress factors,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. “As a result, I think he overreacted when he was confronted by what he perceived as a rude passenger.”
Brown said activating the escape chute “was no laughing matter,” and he scolded Slater — and the public — for not taking his actions more seriously. The district attorney noted that it cost $25,000 to fix the slide and that the plane had to be taken out of service, causing flight delays.
The airline has also pointed out that someone on the ground could have gotten hurt. Emergency slides deploy with potentially deadly force.
JetBlue had no comment on the plea.
Slater, who has no criminal history, has said he cracked under pressure because of his terminally ill mother, recently deceased father and health problems of his own, including HIV.
A mental-health evaluation determined that Slater has a clinical disorder and alcohol-abuse problems. The district attorney did not specify what his disorder was.
JetBlue suspended Slater after the incident, and he resigned in September, leaving him unemployed. He had worked at JetBlue for about three years, though he spent nearly two decades in the airline industry.
Slater said weeks ago that he wanted to continue working in the airline industry, but Howard Bragman, his publicist, would not comment on his future.
His 15 minutes of fame are not quite over: In a homage to Slater, several businesses are selling a new costume for Halloween: the disgruntled flight attendant.
“It’s a blue steward shirt with a light blue tie and it comes with a Band-Aid for your forehead,” said Todd Kenig, chairman of Ricky’s NYC.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)