The mother of a toddler who was slappedÂ during a flight has broken her silence, saying she was scared to death as a ‘drunk’ fellow passenger slapped her son after spouting off a racial slur, andÂ now the man who did it is out of a job.
Jessica Bennett, 33, was aboard the DeltaÂ flight from Minnesota to Atlanta with her adopted son Jonah on February 8 whenÂ the boy began crying because he was feeling ‘the pressure in hisÂ ears.’
She said she was shocked to hear the manÂ seated next to her, Joe Rickey Hundley, demand that she ‘shut that n****r babyÂ up.’
She told ABCÂ News: ‘I said,Â “What did you just say?” And he was so drunk that he fell onto my face and hisÂ mouth moved over to my ear and he said it directly into my ear.’
But she couldn’t have imagined what happenedÂ next, as Hundley allegedly slapped Jonah.
When I looked at Jonah’s face, his eye wasÂ swollen… and it was bleeding. I was just scared to death.’
Mrs Bennett, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, saysÂ Jonah was traumatized by the incident, and has become ‘apprehensive toÂ strangers’ since.
Hundley’s lawyer Marcia Shein, told ABC NewsÂ that no one should rush to judgment in her client’s case, and he will beÂ pleading not guilty.
But the task of proving his innocence may beÂ difficult as Bennett family attorney John Thompson told the network that thereÂ were numerous witnesses who saw Hundley strike Jonah – including a federal airÂ marshal.
According to The Smoking Gun, Hundley has been charged with simpleÂ assault after the incident.
Hundley was charged with simpleÂ assault inÂ federal court in Atlanta last week. If convicted, he faces a maximum of one yearÂ in prison.
The 60-year-old, who is the president of anÂ aircraft parts manufacturer based in Idaho, denied slapping the child or usingÂ racial language. He claimsÂ that he did ‘ask the mother to quiet theÂ child.’
Hundley was suspended from his job asÂ president of Unitech Composites and Structures, The AtlantaÂ Journal-Constitution reported.
Al Haase, president and chiefÂ executive ofÂ AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group – Unitech’sÂ parent company – saidÂ the firm was taking the matter seriously.
‘In accordance with our company’sÂ personalÂ conduct policy, we have suspended the employee pendingÂ investigation,’ Al Haase,Â president and CEO of AGC, said in aÂ statement.
‘We wish to emphasize that the behavior that has been described is contradictory to our values, embarrassing andÂ does notÂ in any way reflect the patriotic character of the men and women of diverseÂ backgrounds who work tirelessly in our business,’ Haase added.
The company later amended its statementÂ adding that ‘he is no longer with the company.’
AGC did not specify whether Hundley was firedÂ or if he left voluntarily.
Hundley said he was traveling to Atlanta toÂ visit aÂ hospitalized relative, described his emotional state as ‘distraught’Â and that he had one alcoholic drink on the aircraft.
However, Bennett told The Smoking Gun that sheÂ believed Hundley was intoxicated. The mother said that he ‘reeked of alcohol’,Â was ‘stumbling aroundÂ wasted’ and he consumed several double vodkas during theÂ flight.
Bennett says Hundley told her that Jonah wasÂ too big to be a ‘lap baby.’
Agent Cheney added that BennettÂ receivedÂ help from other passengers on the Delta flight.
Todd Wooten,Â who was seated 12 rows ahead,Â told authorities that he ‘heard derogatory language coming from the rear of theÂ aircraft’ and went to see what was going on.
‘According to Mr. Wooten,’ Cheney wrote, ‘heÂ saw Joe Rickey Hundley strike’ the child.
Hundley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanorÂ assault in a Virginia court inÂ 2007 after he was arrested following a quarrelÂ with his girlfriend.
He was first charged with simple assault,Â carrying a concealed weapon, and public intoxication. Hundley told The Smoking Gun that the weapon he was allegedlyÂ carrying was a corkscrew.