Man who thought plane was on fire charged with disrupting Utah flight

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 19, 2012 11:45 PM
Man who thought plane was on fire charged with disrupting Utah flight

By Jennifer Dobner

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A Ukrainian immigrant, who is accused of disrupting an airline flight and assaulting its crew because he believed the wing was on fire, was ordered on Friday to remain in custody in Utah to face charges.

A federal judge ordered a mental evaluation for Anatoliy Baranovich, 46, who authorities said had been drinking and had passports for 19 women and $6,500 in cash in his luggage.

Prosecutors believe the mental examination may shed light on Baranovich's actions during a Delta Airlines flight from Boston to Salt Lake City on Monday. Baranovich is charged with one count each of damaging and disabling an aircraft and interference with a flight crew.

Prosecutors say Baranovich, who was returning home to Oregon after a trip to Ukraine, awoke from a nap, looked out a window as the plane descended for landing and thought he saw fire.

He became agitated and began yelling in Russian before bolting from his seat to the rear of the aircraft where he tried to open the emergency doors.

At a detention hearing in Salt Lake City's federal court, FBI agent Cameron Smiley said Baranovich ignored commands from flight attendants to calm down and fought off at least five passengers before he was subdued.

Baranovich told police he had a few beers at airport stops in Amsterdam and Boston and one glass of wine on the Boston-to-Salt Lake flight, Smiley said.

Smiley said Baranovich was calm during their interview, but again became violent when officers found 19 Ukrainian passports, mostly for young women, in his luggage. Baranovich also was carrying more than $6,500 in cash and offered to give the money to police if they would release him, the agent said.

"I told him we didn't work like that," Smiley testified.

Defense attorneys asked that Baranovich be released because his behavior was an aberration. A permanent U.S. resident, Baranovich has no history of violence or any record of criminal behavior or arrests in the U.S., his lawyer said.

District Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead said he was troubled by Baranovich's access to passports and cash, which could make him a flight risk.

No new hearing dates have been set. If convicted, Baranovich faces a possible maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Bill Trott)