Englishmen whose drunken behavior caused plane to be diverted to Bangor sentenced to time served
By Judy Harrison, Bangor Daily News Staff
The Englishmen whose rowdy, drunken behavior caused a plane to be diverted to Bangor International Airport on Jan. 2 were sentenced March 14 in U.S. District Court in Bangor to time served, or about 2.5 months while they were being held at the Piscataquis County Jail.
Anthony Joseph James Kirby and Damien Jake Murphy, both 36, of Manchester, England, pleaded guilty Feb. 2 to one count each of interference with flight crew members and attendants and assault on a flight attendant and a passenger.
In addition to jail time, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker ordered the men to pay jointly $26,500 in restitution, which is the landing fee that BIA charged the airline.
But the pair’s legal troubles aren’t over.
Because the flight was traveling from Mexico to Manchester, England, and had not planned to stop in the United States, the passengers were not required to have visas, according to the U.S. attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case. That means that as soon as they were arrested the men were in the country illegally.
After being released from the Dover-Foxcroft jail, the pair will be turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for removal proceedings.
Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the men faced between zero and six months in federal prison.
In imposing the sentences, the judge said that to consider this behavior “course and bullying” understates their conduct.
“For the passengers trapped in a flying tube with two people who have over served themselves on gin who are shouting, yelling and creating an extreme atmosphere of fear is just intolerable,” Walker said. “To cap it off with an assault is another thing. I think it is important for both of you to come to terms with the very real fear and terror that you struck into the passengers and crew.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey, who prosecuted the case, said that both men were working class and raised free of abuse and neglect. Murphy works as a scaffolder and Kirby is a pipefitter. Both men had a history of abusing alcohol, he told the judge. The prosecutor described Murphy and Kirby as “two drunken sods” that day.
“Once they sobered up and realized they weren’t in Manchester anymore and were not going back to Manchester anytime soon, we had their attention,” Casey said. “They were not the same brash bullies that were on the plane.”
Historically, passengers who are arrested and charged with causing a plane to be diverted are sentenced to time served, but a six-month sentence would not be “unreasonable,” the prosecutor told Walker.
Casey did not recommend a specific sentence. Defense attorneys Don Brown of Brewer, who represented Murphy, and Harris Mattson of Bangor, who represented Kirby, urged Walker to impose a time-served sentence.
Both told Walker that their clients’ conduct on the plane was out of character. Both attorneys submitted character references for the men from family, friends, co-workers and employers.
A representative of the airlines said that the men have been banned from all TIU flights, from its sister airlines, its cruise ships and its resorts and other properties around the world.
Both men apologized for their conduct and said that they would not seek out any crew members or passengers once they returned to Manchester.
Officials at the Piscataquis County Jail said through Casey that the pair had been model inmates and had helped corrections staff de-escalate conflicts between other inmates.
A third man was also removed from the plane on Jan. 2, but was not charged because he did not assault anyone as Kirby and Murphy did, Casey said.
The TUI Airways plane, which was traveling from Cancun, Mexico, to Manchester, England, landed in Bangor at about 10 p.m. on Jan. 2 after taking off five hours earlier, according to court documents. There were 328 passengers and 10 crew members on board.
During the flight the men became loud and disruptive, according to the prosecution’s version of events. When the aircraft was over Florida, Kirby, Murphy and the third man made racist comments to the crew and passengers while filming their interactions with the crew and the other passengers with their cameras.
Flight attendants refused to serve the trio alcohol, but one of the men retrieved a bottle of alcohol from a carry-on bag and the men drank from it, court documents said. The pilot gave the men numerous warnings over the public address system that the plane would be diverted if they did not follow flight attendants’ instructions.
A flight attendant who tried to de-escalate the situation while the plane was in the air was assaulted by Murphy. Once the plane landed, Kirby attacked the passenger sitting three seats in front of him.
Over the past decade, BIA has hosted about 10 diverted flights due to disruptive passengers.