Thursday, October 21, 2010

Slater Reaches Deal in JetBlue Criminal Charges

Steven Slater, the flight attendant who gained widespread attention after quitting his job with JetBlue in dramatic fashion in August, has struck a deal with his former employer that will allow him to avoid jail time.

Slater, who exited JetBlue Flight 1052 through the plane’s emergency escape slide after it landed at JFK Airport, pleaded guilty this week to second-degree criminal mischief. He will also enroll for a minimum of twelve months in the mental health alternative sentencing program. He will also pay the airline $10,000 in restitution.

A flight attendant for JetBlue at the time of the incident, Slater claimed he argued with a passenger before deciding to dramatically exit the plane down the emergency slide. He was later found at his boyfriend’s house in Belle Harbor.

Authorities argue that Slater’s actions could have proved deadly. The emergency escape slide deploys at a force of 3,000 pounds per square inch. If the slide had hit any of the workers below the plane, serious injury or death might have occurred.

The defendant conditionally pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree criminal mischief and attempted forth-degree criminal mischief. He was conditionally sentenced to one to three years of incarceration. However, as part of his plea agreement, Slater will enroll in the District Attorney’s mental health alternative sentencing program and reimburse the estimated cost of replacing or repairing the escape chute, among other expenses.

The Queens Mental Health Court (QMHC) is a special part of the Queens County Supreme Court. It provides a court-supervised program for those arrested in Queens who have mental health-related issues, who need treatment and other services and who choose to participate in the court program instead of having their cases proceed through the regular court process. The program lasts for at least one year after an individual enters a guilty plea in QMHC.

Each QMHC participant is assigned a case manager who prepares an individualized treatment plan and monitors that individual’s participation and progress for the court. The treatment plan may include such things as medication, regular appointments with a psychiatrist and participation in an alcohol or substance abuse treatment program.

If the defendant successfully completes the treatment plan prepared for him, he will be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to the felony charge and will be sentenced to one year’ probation on the misdemeanor charge.

“I believe that the defendant finally has recognized the seriousness of his actions and is willing to accept responsibility,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “Under the circumstances, today’s disposition,.. fairly balances the seriousness of the charges against the need for the defendant’s rehabilitation.”

Slater’s guilty plea was not his only problem that day. While he was pleading guilty in court, his partner’s brother, Jonathan Rochelle, allegedly broke into Slater’s Belle Harbor home knowing he would not be home. If convicted, Rochelle faces up to 15 years in prison.

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