May 8 -- FORT LAUDERDALE -- An apologetic, self-described prankster was fired Monday after officials said they found out he used an airport speaker system to play a Bible verse that offended a gay couple.
Luggage attendant Jethro Monestime, 23, who worked for Superior Aircraft Services at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for about a year, admitted he was responsible for playing the controversial message twice in the baggage area of Terminal 3 at about 12:45 a.m. May 1.
Monestime recalled using his cell phone to play a recording that said, "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they should be put to death." The announcement came from Leviticus 20:13.
Anthony Niedwiecki, 40, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who heard the broadcast with his six-year partner, Waymon Hudson, said Monday he didn't consider it a prank. He said he was scared to hear the recording in a baggage terminal with few people and no security nearby.
"It was a death threat," Niedwiecki said. "I appreciate the fact that police followed up on this."
Niedwiecki and Hudson, both of Oakland Park, filed the complaint to airport officials that started the investigation.
"I just want to apologize to everybody who was involved, especially the couple," Monestime said at his Hollywood home, still wearing his work uniform Monday afternoon. "I didn't think it was going to hurt anybody."
Denise Tertulien, an aunt who lives with Monestime, said relatives were disappointed in him. Tertulien said the family was eating dinner Sunday when four investigators arrived and woke up Monestime to talk to him.
"I was shocked and he was worried," Tertulien said.
Danny Pyne, co-owner of Superior Aircraft, a private company with more than 100 employees at the airport, said Monestime was fired Monday and the company had issued an apology to Niedwiecki and Hudson.
Broward County Mayor Josephus Eggelletion Jr., who held a news conference Monday to announce officials had found the culprit, declined to say how Monestime was identified as the broadcaster.
Eggelletion said the Sheriff's Office would turn the case over to the Broward State Attorney's Office to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
Monestime said a friend sent the verse to his cell phone. He said he played it over the intercom without considering the consequences and didn't know a gay couple was in the airport at the time.
Airport officials will review policies in hopes of preventing another such incident, said Bob Bielek, interim director of the county aviation department.
Staff Researcher Jeremy Milarsky contributed to this report.
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