Twins who allegedly disrupted flight are back home

Posted: Thursday, June 07, 2001

BUCKLEY, Mich. (AP) -- Identical twin sisters accused of disrupting an airline flight by their unruly behavior are back home, but they aren't talking publicly about what happened.

Cynthia and Crystal Mikula, both 22, were taken into federal custody April 19 after a United Airlines pilot turned his Boeing 747 around over the Pacific Ocean and landed in Anchorage, Alaska. The plane was flying from San Francisco to Shanghai, China.

The aspiring models, who said they were flying to a modeling competition, both pleaded innocent in May after being indicted on charges of interfering with the flight crew. If convicted, each woman faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Mikulas were released on bail June 3.

From the porch of the mobile home where they live adjacent to their parents' house in Buckley, a village of about 400 people some 195 miles northwest of Detroit, the sisters declined Wednesday to talk about the bizarre episode that received international attention.

''I'm glad to be back,'' said Crystal, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.

As she smoked a cigarette, Cynthia politely declined to answer questions.

''Thank you for coming though,'' she told a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press, flashing a smile.

U.S. Magistrate John Roberts required both of their parents to come to Alaska to accompany their daughters home and set a long list of conditions for the twins' release, including no alcohol or firearms in the house.

Joe and Vicky Mikula must stay within ''sight or sound'' of their daughters around the clock until the women return to Anchorage next month to stand trial. Crystal's trial is scheduled to begin July 9 and Cynthia's starts July 25.

Much of what happened on the flight was captured on videotape by a passenger with a camcorder and broadcast on television. The story has appeared in newspapers around the world and in supermarket tabloids.

Vicky Mikula said she had to take steps to deflect the incessant media requests for interviews.

''I had to go out and buy an answering machine because we were getting so many calls,'' she said.

Mauri Long, an Anchorage attorney representing Cynthia, told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that all of the media attention is hurting his client's case.

''The coverage is going to make it difficult to find a jury that doesn't know a whole lot about them,'' Long said.

According to an FBI affidavit, the sisters were drinking heavily and got into a profanity-laden argument on the airplane, which was carrying 231 people. They went into restrooms to smoke and, at one point, Cynthia allegedly talked about opening up a door on the flight and declared, ''I gotta have a smoke.''

Authorities also allege Cynthia gave a flight attendant a bloody nose and then jumped on the back of an off-duty pilot.



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