A 24-year-old Sea-Tac passenger will spend two years in prison after trying to open the door of a Delta airliner in mid-air last July. Joseph Daniel Hudek IV was sentenced by a Federal Judge Tuesday morning.
In February, Hudek IV pled guilty to one count of interference with flight crew and three counts of assault in special aircraft jurisdiction.
About 20 friends and relatives from Florida and Texas came to speak on Hudek's behalf. Joseph Hudek is also known as JoJo. The testimonials tearful at times. A friend saying, "The man on that flight was not the JoJo we all know and love."
Hudek did not have a prior criminal record. Friends saying he was the kind of guy who volunteered, who would go out of his way to help people, even those who he really didn't know.
"On July 6th, I made the worst decision in my life," Hudek told Federal Judge John Coughenour. He also apologized to the people he assaulted. "I hope they can forgive me at some point."
On the other side of the courtroom sat flight attendants and other passengers who were aboard Delta flight 129 to Beijing last July 6. Only one spoke, Lon Arnold, a businessman from central Utah. Arnold was one of the passengers who intervened, and says he now has permanent eye damage from being hit by a wine-bottle-wielding Hudek. He spoke of the fear of what might happen as Hudek tried to open the door, while impossible at altitude due to pressurization, Arnold feared he could break a window or cause other damage to the plane.
"When somebody's out of control like he was, what's their mental state? You have no idea. What are they going to do? What are they capable of doing? You have no idea. It was a very scary experience," said Arnold in an interview after the sentencing.
At one point in the courtroom, Arnold directed his comments directly at Hudek, and was told by the judge to instead direct his comments to the court. "You can be a nice guy, and go to the bar and have a few drinks," Arnold told us. "And when you drive away from that bar and kill somebody...you've just erased all of your nice guy status. You can never fix what you did."
Arnold says he supported prosecutors who called for a 5-year sentence, but can live with Judge Coughenour's sentence of two years.
Prosecutors claim Hudek may have consumed several packages of edible marijuana gummies before boarding the flight.
Hudek of Tampa, Fla. texted his mother when he landed at Sea-Tac Airport and told her he planned to visit a marijuana dispensary before his Delta flight to Beijing on July 6. His mother gave him the address of a nearby dispensary, and he later texted her that he had bought “edible candy,” according to sentencing documents.
Hudek also sent friends photos of two or three packages of marijuana candy before boarding the flight according to documents.
There were no bags of marijuana candies on Hudek when he was arrested, leading investigators to believe he consumed it all. He admitted to eating the candies before boarding the plane, but he told investigators he only ate one or two.
“It seems unlikely that Hudek purchased multiple bags of candy, only to eat two candies and throw the rest away,” sentencing documents read. “A more likely explanation is that Hudek consumed most, if not all, of the marijuana candy he purchased.”
Packages of marijuana candies at three stores near Sea-Tac Airport typically contained 10 candies each, and a serving size was one or two candies, according to sentencing documents.
He was arrested when the plane landed back at Sea-Tac.