A Blue Bell man has been arrested on charges that he assaulted a Philadelphia radio personality and his wife by repeatedly directing racial epithets at the couple during a US Airways flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia early Monday, police said.
Robert Baldwin, of Amour Circle, was arraigned yesterday on charges of felony ethnic intimidation, misdemeanor simple assault and misdemeanor harassment, police said. He was released on $20,000 bail.
According to police, Baldwin, a self-employed engineer, is accused of kicking the back of the first-class seat occupied by E. Steven Collins, host of E. Steven Live on WPHI-FM (100.3), and the seat of Collins' wife, Lisa. Baldwin, police said, later put his bare feet on Lisa Collins' headrest before allegedly thrusting his feet onto the couple's armrest.
Collins, who hosted a radio show on WDAS-FM (105.3) for two decades, is the national sales manager of Radio One Philadelphia, which operates WPHI, WPPZ-FM (103.9) and WRNB-FM (107.9).
"I didn't know if I was dealing with a terrorist or a lunatic," Collins said.
After boarding the plane, Baldwin, who was seated behind Collins and his wife, started muttering racial epithets, Collins said in an interview yesterday. Baldwin later began kicking and pushing Lisa Collins' seat, according to police.
Calls throughout the day to Baldwin's phone were not answered. A reporter went to the front door of his home, and a man answering through the door ordered the reporter off the property.
Collins said he told a flight attendant about Baldwin's behavior and that the attendant asked Baldwin to stop.
Collins said, "The flight attendant pleaded with him to stop putting his feet on the seat. She said, 'Sir, can you please keep your feet on the floor?' "
Collins said that Baldwin had used a racial slur and had suggested the airline should not allow African Americans to fly first class.
"My wife and I were the only African Americans in first class," Collins said. "We called the flight attendant many times."
Lisa Collins said Baldwin "was using lots of profanity during the flight."
The Collinses were returning from Los Angeles, where they attended the wedding on Saturday of State Sen. Vincent Hughes and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Collins said he asked the female flight attendant to have security personnel waiting when the plane landed in Philadelphia about 6:30 a.m. Monday.
He said that when the plane landed, Baldwin "continued to do and say inappropriate things."
Collins said no authorities were awaiting the plane. He said he reported the matter to an officer at the airport, but that no action was immediately taken. Collins said he then called Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson at home and prompt police action followed.
Officers arrested Baldwin at the baggage-claim area.
Police Inspector William Colarulo said the protocol for incidents aboard airliners calls for the flight captain to contact the airport tower and for tower personnel to contact the Police Department's airport unit.
"Apparently, we were not notified until the guy was in baggage claim," Colarulo said.
Colarulo said Baldwin's adult son, who was traveling with him, had told Baldwin and his wife that they were acting like children.
David Castelbeter, a spokesman for US Airways, said, "We will work directly with this customer to resolve any differences." He added that, "We will do a further review of the circumstances."
Collins said he was fearful throughout the flight. "There was no escape," he said. "The only person I could go to was the young woman, who was limited in what she could do."