A woman accused of making statements about a hijacking, spitting at flight attendants and passengers and trying to open a cabin door while onboard a United Airlines flight from Boston to San Francisco pleaded guilty today a misdemeanor in federal court.
Erin Callahan Lambert, 28, who lives in the Bay Area, could have her conviction dismissed if she stays out of trouble for the next year, according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. At a hearing today in San Francisco, U.S. Magistrate Edward Chen placed Lambert on pretrial diversion for a year and ordered her to return to court on April 30, 2008.
Lambert's attorney, Kate Dyer, did not return a call for comment today.
Lambert was originally charged in January with interference with flight crew members, a felony that could have sent her to prison for a maximum of 20 years.
But in February, federal prosecutors amended the case, filing a misdemeanor charge of assault while aboard an aircraft. The alleged victim wasn't specified.
Lambert was apparently intoxicated while on Flight 179 on Jan. 21, authorities said.
About halfway through the six-hour, nonstop flight, she stood from her seat, went to the back of the plane and began talking on her cell phone, FBI Special Agent Brian Gilhooly wrote in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Two flight attendants told Lambert that she had to turn off the phone and return to her seat, but she "refused and became combative," Gilhooly wrote. Asked who she was talking to, Lambert said, "I'm calling 911 because the plane is being hijacked," the affidavit said.
Lambert eventually returned to her seat, but 20 minutes later, when a passenger seated next to her went to the restroom, Lambert took that passenger's seat, authorities said. A flight attendant politely asked her to return to her seat, but she refused, the affidavit said.
Lambert blocked the flight attendant from retrieving the other passenger's luggage, authorities said. She then asked to use the restroom and started to take her luggage, including her pet dog in a carrier, the affidavit said.
Told to leave her belongings behind, Lambert said, "No, you are going to have to kill me and my dog," Gilhooly wrote. She then locked herself in the restroom.
Moments later, Lambert exited the restroom and "started walking rapidly toward the front of the airplane," saying, "I'm getting off the aircraft," Gilhooly wrote.
A flight attendant yelled at two passengers to help as Lambert headed for a cabin door, the affidavit said. After the captain ordered that Lambert be handcuffed, she was told that she would be cuffed if she didn't return to her seat.
Lambert then began kicking, screaming and spitting at people, the affidavit said. The plane's purser was able to handcuff Lambert, who "had to be forcefully put into a seat," Gilhooly wrote.
But Lambert managed to wriggle free from the handcuffs, so "flex cuffs," or plastic ties, were placed on her wrists, authorities said.
"During the entire assault, Ms. Lambert was yelling profanities, cursing and spitting on the flight attendants and other passengers," Gilhooly wrote.
Lambert was turned over to airport police upon arrival at San Francisco International Airport, where she refused to be interviewed by the FBI and requested an attorney, according to Gilhooly.
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