DENVER - A Salt Lake City truck driver who forced a Utah-bound flight to land in Denver after he became belligerent when refused another drink will serve no prison time for his offense.
James Jay Bobo, 44, pleaded guilty last December to one count of interfering with a United Airlines flight crew on an Aug. 18 flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City.
In his plea agreement, Bobo admitted to swearing at flight attendants, throwing items around the cabin and rummaging through the plane's rear galley for liquor after he was denied a third gin and tonic.
U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham, acting on prosecution recommendation, put Bobo on five years of probation, ordering him to reimburse the airline $5,840, take alcohol counseling and continue mental health treatment.
Bobo, accompanied by his wife, expressed remorse in court.
"I'm truly sorry for what I did," he said. "I'm very embarrassed."
According to an FBI affidavit, Bobo had two drinks and ordered a third when passengers seated near him told a female flight attendant that Bobo was already intoxicated and should be cut off. When she refused to serve him another round, Bobo grabbed her by the arm and called her a vulgar name.
Bobo continued demanding more alcohol, yelled profanities at another attendant who assisted his co-worker, and was "flaying about," witnesses told investigators.
Two male passengers helped the flight attendants subdue Bobo, who then threw a can of tonic water to the rear of the plane, spewing its contents. "I don't need this if I don't get another drink," Bobo said, according to the affidavit.
The pilot diverted the plane to Denver International Airport. Bobo was arrested by police and taken into custody by federal authorities.
Under questioning by FBI agents, Bobo insisted he wasn't drunk, but was maybe "a little loose." He said he suffered from bipolar disorder and was taking two prescription antidepressant medications.
Bobo said he was flying home after being on the road with his partner in a trucking business. He admitted that he had four gin and tonics in a four-hour span at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
By pleading guilty, Bobo was spared the maximum 20-year sentence under federal sentencing guidelines. Court records said Bobo was sentenced to a one-year prison sentence 20 years ago for cocaine possession with intent to distribute. He was sent back to prison for a parole violation in 1991.
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