Federal magistrate holds twin sisters for trial

Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Identical twin sisters charged with interfering with a flight crew for allegedly punching several flight attendants and putting one in a choke hold were held Wednesday for trial.

''The evidence indicates that both defendants were involved in the fracas ... that the assaults did occur to flight members,'' U.S. Magistrate John Roberts said. A bail hearing was scheduled for Thursday.

Cynthia and Crystal Mikula, 22, of Buckley, Mich., were arrested Friday after United flight 857 from San Francisco to Shanghai was diverted to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, 1,100 miles out of its way. The Boeing 747 carried 233 passengers and 22 crew members. Authorities say the sisters had several drinks on board the plane.

Cynthia Mikula allegedly struck several people on the plane, bloodying the nose of a female flight attendant. Crystal Mikula is accused of jumping on the back of a male flight attendant, scratching his neck and putting him in a choke hold because she was upset her sister was being restrained with plastic handcuffs.

The problems aboard the flight began with a curse-filled fight between the two sisters that was loud enough so other passengers asked the flight crew to intervene. A female flight attendant backed off after the sisters began cursing at her when she asked them to calm down, FBI special agent Michael Thoreson told the court.

Another flight attendant was struck in the face when she approached Cynthia Mikula near the plane's bathroom after passengers said they smelled cigarette smoke.

''Cynthia with her hand punched her in the face ... in the nose area of the face,'' Thoreson said. A doctor on board ''initially believed the nose may have been broken,'' he said.

When an off-duty pilot tried to intervene, Cynthia Mikula hit him on the head, Thoreson said.

Cynthia Mikula also allegedly threatened to open up the plane's exterior door while it was in flight.

Both sisters, dressed in dark blue jail garb, remained calm throughout the two-and-a-half hour hearing in federal court. Each was represented by court-appointed attorneys. If convicted, each faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

The women were on their way to China to enter a modeling competition. Their mother, Vicky Mikula, said she took out a $10,000 loan last January to send the twins to California for a competition where they got the attention of the Asian modeling agency.



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