Charge reduced against Houston man in flight disruption

Posted: Wednesday, December 04, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Federal prosecutors have reduced the charge against a Texas man who claimed to be a terrorist on a flight to Tokyo and allegedly threatened the flight crew last month. The flight was diverted to Anchorage.

Matthew Leggett, 42, of Houston was arrested Nov. 21 and charged with interfering with a flight crew, a felony.

Defense attorney Mary Geddes said in court Tuesday that the change to a misdemeanor charge of simple assault was filed in anticipation of a plea agreement.

Investigators said Leggett got drunk on a Northwest Flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo. He then threatened people after a bottle of cognac was taken away from him. Pilots persuaded him to sit down by giving the bottle back, according to an FBI affidavit.

Leggett faces a maximum six months in prison, a $5,000 fine and five years probation. If convicted, he may owe tens of thousands of dollars in restitution to Northwest for fuel and other costs, said federal prosecutor Karen Loeffler.

U.S. Attorney Tim Burgess said the reduction in charges was consistent with how his office has handled other cases involving unruly airplane passengers on flights that were diverted to Anchorage.

Leggett remains at Cook Inlet Pre-Trial Facility.

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