Eagle River man pleads guilty to disrupting flight

Posted: Thursday, November 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Eagle River man pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to a charge of interference with a flight crew.

James Michael Ridge admitted to threatening a flight attendant during a February flight from Anchorage to Kentucky. His behavior didn't cause pilots to divert the airplane, but he created enough of an uproar to be charged.

He was indicted that same month by a federal grand jury in Kentucky. Because he didn't contest the charge, he was allowed to have the case moved to his home state of Alaska for a plea hearing and sentencing, his attorney said.

Prosecutors said alcohol and medication for depression fueled Ridge's profanity-laced diatribe on Feb. 5 that led to his arrest.

Ridge, 68, was traveling on Delta Airlines Flight 1008 to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to visit family, said public defender Kevin McCoy.

During the flight, Ridge asked an attendant if he could smoke, said assistant U.S. attorney Steve Skrocki. When she said no, Ridge threatened to ''split her skull open.''

Other passengers had to hold Ridge back, Skrocki said. The flight landed as scheduled. Ridge was arrested the next day.

Ridge's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 9. He faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail. He has been released on $500 cash bond.

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