Judge set to release sisters in air rage to Michigan parents

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Michigan twins Cynthia and Crystal Mikula could be going home soon, after more than two weeks in jail on charges of interfering with a flight crew on a trans-Pacific flight. But their flight continues to be bumpy.

The 22-year-old women had a bail hearing Friday in federal court here, and the lawyer for Cynthia Mikula said their mother was ready to come out and pick them up at some point in the future if the judge agreed they could go.

The Mikulas have been in and out of U.S. Magistrate John Roberts' courtroom since April 20. That's when a United Airlines captain turned around his 747 with 233 passengers, bound for Shanghai, and deposited the sisters in Anchorage.

Prosecutors said the sisters drank a lot on the plane, started fighting with each other, then scuffled with the flight crew when they tried to intervene. Passengers on their flight spent a day in Anchorage they hadn't planned for after the raucous evening aboard the airliner.

It was much more subdued in Roberts' courtroom than the dark footage of screaming and crying that was shown on a home video of the flight.

But even though the magistrate indicated he was ready to let the young women out on bail, things still went awry.

When a call was placed from the court, the twins' father, Joseph Mikula, answered the phone at his Buckley, Mich., home. But his wife, Victoria, was out for a walk.

''We didn't know anyone would be calling us,'' Joseph Mikula told the judge.

Cynthia Mikula's lawyer, Mauri Long, said later that there apparently was some confusion about the four-hour time difference between Michigan and Alaska.

''They were alerted,'' she said. ''I didn't think to say it was 6 o'clock their time.''

The judge accepted the father as one of the third-party custodians for the twins, and scheduled a hearing on Monday to hear from their mother.

''I guess you're halfway there,'' he told the young women.

As the judge described his conditions for the twins' release, their father said he didn't think he'd have any trouble complying with the restrictions.

The judge then turned to the women and told them they'd better cooperate.

''Don't play any games with the third-party custodians,'' he told them. ''Even though they're your parents, they are the eyes and ears of the court. If you abuse the process, the court will take that option away.''

The judge set bail at $5,000 each, though he didn't require the twins to post the money. He set a 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew and told the women they can't drink alcohol or use illegal drugs.

They'll have to get alcohol screening and go to treatment if the evaluator recommends it. They're subject to random drug and alcohol tests.

The twins also can't have access to weapons.

The women will have to surrender their passports, and show that they have one-way tickets to return to Alaska for future court hearings. They can't travel outside the states of Michigan and Alaska except to go to and from court. Their mother will have to come and pick them up, and fly back and forth with them.

The twins will have to be within ''sight or sound'' of their parents at all times.

They'll have to return to Anchorage for arraignment on the felony charge of interfering with a flight crew, if they're indicted by a grand jury. The trial would come later. They face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The judge could also order restitution. That could amount to tens of thousands of dollars, though the women have few assets and are being represented by lawyers provided by the court.

The tall, gaunt women said they were headed to a modeling competition in Shanghai when the captain turned the plane around. They appeared in court in their jail garb, but they showed some fashion touches.

Cynthia Mikula had a white hair band on top of her head holding some of her long, curly red hair. She was wearing a brace on her wrist, which she said earlier was injured in the scuffle on the plane.

Crystal Mikula had a large red hairband on her wrist for most of the hearing. She put it in her long, curly red hair just before a federal marshal put the handcuffs on her wrists for the trip back to Hiland Mountain Correctional Center.

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