A Texas woman made her initial court appearance Friday after allegedly shoving a flight attendant who asked her husband to put a face mask on during a flight from Alaska to San Francisco.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, 50-year-old Debby Dutton of Cypress, Texas, and her husband, named only as “J.D.” in the criminal complaint, were passengers aboard the flight on June 29, 2021.
Flight attendants aboard the plane gave several safety announcements to the flight’s passengers, including reminders of the federal mask requirement aboard commercial flights.
The flight attendants also outlined that if passengers’ masks fell off while asleep, an attendant would wake them up and ask them to place their mask back over their face.
After roughly three-and-a-half hours of the four-and-a-half-hour flight, a flight attendant collecting trash through the plane’s cabin noticed that several passengers did not have their masks on properly, including Dutton’s husband.
The flight attendant then tapped J.D. on the shoulder and asked him to place his mask back on, which he subsequently did, according to the affidavit included with the complaint against Dutton.
Dutton, sitting next to J.D., then allegedly got up from her seat and became irate with the flight attendant. She then walked toward the flight attendant and pushed the flight attendant twice, requiring that they step backward to maintain their balance.
Dutton eventually returned to her seat after J.D. had asked her to do so, according to the complaint. The flight attendant reported the incident to the captain and claimed that they felt threatened and afraid, and that Dutton’s shoves were painful and forceful.
According to federal prosecutors, the flight attendant’s right bicep was bruised by Dutton’s pushes and the flight attendant subsequently sought medical care after the flight had landed at the San Francisco International Airport.
The charge against Dutton, one count of interference by assault, threat, or intimidation with flight crew members or attendants, has a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.
Dutton made her initial court appearance in Houston, Texas, and is scheduled to make her next appearance Tuesday in Houston’s federal court.
Federal prosecutors are attempting to obtain an order to have Dutton ultimately face the charge in San Francisco federal court.