Air rage accused likely to be prosecuted in Crown Court
Judge refuses bail for US passenger who ‘demanded nuts’ over absence of address
US citizen Jeremiah Mathis Thede is in custody charged with endangering the safety of the aircraft, disruptive behaviour on board and common assault while onboard a United Airlines flight on June 20th this year. Photograph: Kevin Moloney/ Getty Images
An American citizen accused of an air rage incident is likely to be prosecuted in the Crown Court because of the huge costs to the airline, a judge heard on Tuesday.
Lodging a bail application on behalf of 42-year-old Jeremiah Mathis Thede at Antrim Magistrates Court, barrister Aaron Thompson revealed that as the airline report that diverting his Chicago-bound flight had cost them “between £300,000-£500,000 . . . this case is only going one way”.
Mr Thompson lamented the fact that Californian Thede is having difficulty finding a suitable bail address to be released to and understanding why he is being held in a Northern Irish jail.
Mr Thede, from the Alameda in Berkeley, California, is in custody charged with endangering the safety of the aircraft, disruptive behaviour on board and common assault on June 20th this year.
Previous courts have heard allegations that he flew into a rage over demands for “nuts and crackers,” forcing the pilot to divert to Belfast International Airport at Aldergrove after concerns were raised about the man by cabin crew and other passengers.
An officer from the Belfast International Airport Constabulary described how the alleged incident unfolded when Mr Thede allegedly got up 15 minutes after take-off from Rome at a time when the seatbelt lights were still illuminated, demanding “nuts or crackers”.
Mr Thede refused to sit back down again until he obtained a snack and the officer said a member of crew managed to “appease” the passenger by giving him some nuts and he then retook his seat.
However, 10 minutes later he was demanding more nuts and crackers and when told he could only have more if there were packets left from giving his fellow passengers theirs, Mr Thede apparently declared: “I can have as much nuts and crackers as I fucking want.”
Mr Thede is accused of common assault on the air stewardess he was dealing with but it is accepted that no blow was struck.
After these incidents, crew alerted the captain about Mr Thede’s alleged conduct and he asked for a number of men to sit around the passenger in case he became violent.
The United Airlines plane had been en route from Rome to Chicago and the plane had to dump 50,000 litres of fuel before making the unscheduled stop.
As the crew would have exceeded their legal flying hours if the aircraft had recommenced the journey straight away, 282 passengers were forced to wait almost 24 hours before the plane could take off again, with many having to sleep on the terminal floors.
On Tuesday, Mr Thompson said that despite the best efforts of his legal team who have been in touch with the US consulate, Mr Thede did not have a proposed bail address but he was asking District Judge Alan White to grant bail “to an address suitable to police”.
He said that the Simon Community won’t accept him as they wanted assurances they would be paid for his place and the lawyer said it may help move matters along if Mr Thede could have access to his computer, currently held in his property at the jail after it was taken from him on the plane.
“He has a property in the US that can be rented out and can derive an income,” said Mr Thompson, adding that Mr Thede “adamantly denies” the allegations.
The “prime issue,” he told the court, was for the case to be moved on as quickly as possible.
Refusing the bail application and remanding Mr Thede back into custody to appear again in two weeks, Judge White said he was not prepared to grant bail in the absence of an address.