Initial Court Appearance Held Today for Anil Uskanli
Anil Uskanli, the 25-year-old Turkish man who allegedly caused a disturbance on board American Airlines flight 31 to Honolulu on Friday, had his initial court appearance today.
A Criminal Complaint was signed over the weekend and filed this morning in the US District Court for the District of Hawai‘i.
The Complaint charges him with one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Acting US Attorney Elliot Enoki said that, according to the Complaint, on May 19, 2017, Uskanli boarded American Airlines Flight 31 from Los Angeles International Airport, bound for Honolulu International Airport. In the course of the flight, Uskanli got up to use the restroom, but did not lock the door to the lavatory, and became agitated, yelled, and pounded on the walls when a fellow passenger entered the lavatory.
After this incident, the pilot executed a level 1 security measure, locking down the flight deck.
According to the Complaint, Uskanli again got up from his seat, wrapped a blanket around his head, and took his laptop to the front area of the plane. A flight attendant used a drink cart to block him from advancing any further toward the cockpit. When Uskanli tried to push the drink cart down the aisle toward the front of the plane, the flight attendant asked nearby passengers for assistance. Once several passengers stood up, Uskanli put the laptop on the drink cart and walked back to his seat. The flight attendants were frightened of the laptop, due to recent information about laptops potentially posing a threat to airplane security because such devices may contain explosives.
An off-duty law enforcement officer walked with Uskanli back to his seat. The law enforcement officer and Uskanli remained in the seats for the rest of the flight. Flight attendants followed protocol for handling of possible explosive materials. They also alerted he captain of the events, and the captain then implemented a level 4 emergency. Two military fighter jets from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam were dispatched to escort the flight to safe landing, according to the Complaint.
The aircraft landed safely at HNL at 11:35 a.m. Bomb technicans worked to secure the plane. K-9 units were deployed to sweep the aircraft. All passengers and carry-on bags were re-screened, and checked bags inspected by a TSA Explosive Detection Canine Team. No explosives were discovered.
The Honorable Barry M. Kurren, US Magistrate Judge, ordered the proceedings suspended pending the outcome of a competency evaluation.
The charges contained in the Complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case is being investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the US Department of Homeland Security, the State of Hawaii Department of Public Safety Sheriff’s Office, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Airport Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Morgan Early.