Sister pleads guilty to assaulting flight attendant

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- One of the twin sisters accused of getting drunk and causing a disruption that forced a United Airlines plane bound for China to be diverted to Anchorage pleaded guilty Thursday.

As part of a plea agreement, Crystal Mikula, 22, of Buckley, Mich., pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for putting her hands around the neck of a flight attendant who was trying to restrain her twin sister, Cynthia Mikula.

In exchange for the plea, the government dropped a felony charge of interfering with a flight crew -- a charge that could have brought 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick set Crystal Mikula's sentencing for Sept. 20. She faces a maximum six-month sentence and $5,000 fine.

The identical twins were arrested April 19 after causing a disturbance in which witnesses said the young women got drunk, began swearing at each other, smoked aboard the plane and assaulted members of the flight crew.

Prosecutors said Cynthia Mikula struck several people on the plane and bloodied the nose of a female flight attendant.

Crystal Mikula became upset when flight attendants decided to restrain her sister with plastic handcuffs and jumped on the back of flight attendant Gregory Sen.

''She put her hand on him around the collar,'' attempting to pull him away from Cynthia, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlie Brown.

The twins were headed to Shanghai for a modeling competition when the problem began. Part of the ruckus was caught on videotape by a fellow passenger.

The plane's 233 passengers and 22 crew members were forced to spend the night in Anchorage before resuming the trip. The airline is expected to ask for restitution that easily could reach tens of thousands of dollars.

The twins were released June 3 to the supervision of their parents. The young women live in a trailer next to their parents' home in Buckley.

The parents were required to provide 24-hour supervision, but Sedwick eased the restrictions on Crystal Mikula. She now will be allowed to find employment and go to therapy and medical appointments without parental supervision.

Brown refused to say whether a similar plea agreement is in the works for Cynthia Mikula. Her trial is set for July 25.

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