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Idaho man who slapped child, used racial slur on flight gets 8 months

Joe Hundley was convicted of slapping a fussy toddler during an Atlanta-bound flight on Feb. 8, 2013.

January 6, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
A man who pleaded guilty to slapping a crying toddler on a plane was sentenced to eight months in federal prison Monday.

Joe Rickey Hundley was convicted of striking a 19-month-old African-American boy under the eye and used a racial slur on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta in February 2013. Hundley pleaded guilty to assault in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of six months in prison. U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman said he imposed a higher sentence in part because of Hundley's criminal history, which includes a prior assault. Before he was sentenced, Hundley told the judge he took full responsibility for his actions and turned to apologize in person to Jessica Bennett, the toddler's mother, who was in the courtroom. Bennett said she did not believe the apology was sincere.

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 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. Bennett asked Hundley what he had said, and he leaned in with his face next to hers and said it again, prosecutors have said.

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

Bennett has said Hundley became increasingly obnoxious and appeared intoxicated during the flight.

In addition to the prison sentence, the judge ordered Hundley to pay Bennett restitution of $105 and to pay a fine of $2,500 to the government. Baverman also ordered Hundley to serve a year of supervised release, undergo alcohol abuse treatment and anger management counseling, and perform 120 hours of community service, preferably in a homeless shelter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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