WICHITA, Kan. — A New York man is accused of making threats against other passengers and an American Airlines flight between Phoenix and JFK, forcing the crew to land in Wichita. Jason Baroletti, 38, was arrested at Dwight D. Eisenhower airport on Tuesday, and he was charged with one count of interfering with the performance of the duties of flight crew members in federal court on Wednesday.
Passengers told investigators that minutes after takeoff from Phoenix, Baroletti started smoking an e-cigarette. When flight attendants ordered him to stop, Baroletti claimed to have anxiety and asked for a beer to help him relax. A physician sitting near him said he told Baroletti that alcohol was the last thing he needed. The physician said Baroletti then threatened to kill him and knock the beard off of his face.
Other passengers said that Baroletti said he would take the plane down and the rest of the passengers with him if he didn’t get a drink, and became increasingly agitated when he was refused. During the altercation he was advised that his behavior violated federal law, and flight attendants eventually asked the pilots to land AA Flight 622 in Wichita.
After he was arrested, Baroletti told a FBI special agent that he didn’t know he couldn’t smoke the e-cigarette, and became upset with another passenger. He admitted to threatening to knock the beard off of the passenger’s face, but said he never threatened to kill him. He also said his comment about taking the plane down was a portrayal of a comedian’s joke, and that he had taken anxiety medication in the morning, but not in the afternoon.
Baroletti faces up to 20 years in federal prison, and a $250,000 fine if convicted. The FBI says Baroletti’s criminal history includes criminal threat, possession and sale of controlled substances, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence.