Joe Rickey Hundley, the 60-year-old man accused of slapping a toddler on a Feb. 8 Minneapolis-to-Atlanta flight and hurling a racial slur, has pleaded not guilty to assault in federal court, the Associated Press reports.
The Hayden, Idaho, resident appeared in court on Wednesday. His lawyer, Marcia Shein, says that her client admitted to using the racial slur, but she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was distraught because he was traveling to Atlanta to remove his son from life support after an insulin overdose.
Hundley made headlines after reports surfaced about the incident on the Delta flight. The child’s mother, Jessica Bennett, 33, told the FBI that their flight was about to land in Atlanta when her son started to cry because of the change in cabin pressure. Hundley, who was seated next to them, “told her to shut that n–ger baby up,” FBI special agent Daron Cheney said in a sworn statement.
She said that Hundley then slapped her son, Jonah, in the face, scratching the boy below his right eye and causing him to scream even louder. Hundley was charged with simple assault, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail, for slapping the child. Subsequently he was fired from his job at AGC Aerospace and Defense.