US charges Frenchman in plane smoking row
A 34-year-old French national has been charged with assault and interfering with flight personnel who confronted him about smoking in the lavatory during a flight between Nice and New York, officials said Tuesday.
A criminal complaint filed in New York says that Franck Lebrun "did knowingly and intentionally assault and intimidate a flight crew member and flight attendant of the aircraft" during a flight Saturday.
In the incident on Delta Airlines flight 83, crew members suspected that someone had been smoking cigarettes in one of the lavatories and confronted Lebrun, telling him not to smoke.
"When Lebrun was observed walking toward the bathroom he was again instructed not to smoke," the complaint said.
"Lebrun appeared intoxicated and smelled of cigarettes and alcohol. Lebrun then approached a female flight crew attendant in an aggressive manner and pushed her away with both hands. When the airline attendant instructed Lebrun not to touch her, Lebrun pushed her away again with both hands."
A deposition by FBI agent Janet Ambrisco said the Frenchman, part of a group en route to Honduras, "was instructed several times to return to his seat" and that during "the entire encounter with flight crew members, Lebrun was speaking in a confrontational manner using expletives in English and made other comments in French."
A federal air marshal on the plane intervened and "instructed Lebrun to return to his seat," and two other air marshals confronted him later but Lebrun "continued to scream and yell expletives and then aggressively positioned himself toward one of the federal air marshals in a fighting stance.
This prompted the air marshals to handcuff and place him in the rear section of the aircraft.
Lebrun nonetheless "continued to verbally abuse individuals around him, yelling in substance 'I'm French, fuck you!'" the document said.
After being arrested Lebrun "became more agitated and flailed his arms and legs, striking one federal air marshals in the right leg with Lebrun's left foot," the complaint said.
Lebrun was due in federal court on Tuesday.
© 2011 AFP