Man in toddler slapping case to be sentenced

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ATLANTA — A man who admitted to having slapped a crying toddler on an Atlanta-bound flight is set to appear in court Monday for sentencing.

Joe Rickey Hundley pleaded guilty in October after reaching a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. Hundley used a racial slur to refer to the 19-month-old boy and then hit him under the right eye as the flight from Minneapolis began its descent to the Atlanta airport, authorities have said.

The misdemeanor simple assault charge carries a possible prison sentence of up to a year and a fine of up to $100,000. Prosecutors have recommended a sentence of six months in prison, but Hundley reserved his right to argue for a lower sentence. Prosecutors are not recommending any specific fine. Hundley has agreed to pay any restitution ordered by the court.

The judge is not required to follow the recommendations in the plea agreement when he sentences Hundley.

Hundley, who lived in Idaho at the time, was on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta on Feb. 8 and was seated in a window seat next to Jessica Bennett, who was sitting in the aisle seat and had her 19-month-old son on her lap, according to court filings.

As the plane descended into Atlanta, the child started crying. Hundley leaned over to Bennett and “told her to shut that (N-word) baby up,” according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent who investigated the incident.

Hundley then slapped the child in the face, leaving a scratch below his right eye, the FBI agent’s statement says.

Hundley’s only son was in a coma in Atlanta after an insulin overdose that was the result of a suspected suicide attempt, his lawyer Marcia Shein told reporters after he pleaded guilty. He spent the day before talking to his ex-wife and doctors after his son was declared brain dead and booked a last-minute flight to Atlanta so he and his ex-wife could take their son off life support, Shein said.

Hundley simply snapped from the pressure, Shein said.

Hundley was president of an aerospace company in Hayden, Idaho, but lost his job following enormous media coverage of the in-flight incident, his defense lawyers said in a court filing. Hundley has since moved to Leland, N.C., according to a court filing. He has been able to find only sporadic, part-time work since then, he told the judge.

Bennett, who lives in Minneapolis, told KARE-TV, a television station there, that her son was traumatized and had become “apprehensive to strangers” since the flight. Hundley became increasingly obnoxious and appeared intoxicated during the flight and complained that her son was too big to sit on her lap, she said.

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sugarbutton 01/06/14 - 08:14 am
I have to say

I have to say that God must've been sitting on top of this womans lap with her son because I know many "mama's" who would have put his life back in perspective real quick. I am very sorry for his loss and sadly maybe their was alot of stress and guilt their because maybe someone should have recognized sooner that his poor son had some problems that he needed help with. Now, his son is gone and another child has had a traumatic incident already in life that I pray won't stay with him.

Yes, God is in control, but occasionally a momma might not contain her resolve and lose that faith in an instant when her children are in danger. I have a mixed son that my husband and I adopted after years of taking care of him and believe me there were some times when I was thankful that the people who were talking behind our backs were exactly that: behind our backs and not in our faces because for my son's sake I wouldn't hunt them down. That part of the situation I did not want him to see.

Pray this little boy is going to be fine and that the parents of the son that was lost will be able to move forward from here.

Marinerman1 01/06/14 - 10:14 am

While I condone nothing that Hundley did that fateful day, I also believe that the judge should show some mercy in this case. I truly believe that he did "snap". I'm not 100% sure that I believe that the child is still traumatized, since a 19 month-old at the time kid, is pretty resilient. I hope, as was stated above, everyone can move on from this. Prayers to the child, but also prayers to the Hundley family.

corgimom 01/06/14 - 11:04 pm
Marinerman, did you know that

Marinerman, did you know that he had been arrested and convicted before of assaulting his girlfriend? It seems he has problems keeping his hands off of other people.

If a parent were to do that to a child, they would be arrested, too. Child abuse is NEVER acceptable.

But that's ok, wait till he gets to jail, since it's heavily populated by blacks, and no prisoner is ok with someone assaulting a baby. I think he's not going to like it.

I believe that the baby is traumatized, most babies would be afraid of strangers after that.

When my son was 18 months old, he had to have blood drawn, and it was difficult and painful and stressful. For a year after that, he would scream if he saw someone dressed in all white. It happens.

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