updated 10/19/2011 7:12:52 PM ET 2011-10-19T23:12:52

A fed-up flight attendant whose spectacular exit down an emergency chute made him a national sensation completed his court-ordered treatment program Wednesday and was sentenced to a year of probation.

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Steven Slater avoided jail time for his stunt when he pleaded guilty to attempted criminal mischief and agreed to undergo counseling and substance abuse treatment. On Wednesday, he was allowed to withdraw the plea on the more serious charge and plead guilty to a lesser charge after successfully completing his yearlong program.

"That was one moment, that was not indicative of who I am," Slater said, adding that he was moving from New York to California and that he planned to write a memoir about his 20 years in the airline industry. "I feel like I'm in a much better place. I have control over my life."

The former JetBlue attendant admitted he pulled the emergency chute on Flight 1052 from Pittsburgh on Aug. 9, 2010, after the plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He went on the public-address system, swore at a passenger who he claimed treated him rudely, grabbed a beer and slid down onto the tarmac.

Catching up with a 'mad flight attendant'

Slater's departure made him a hero to put-upon workers everywhere who have fantasized about quitting in a blaze of glory. He was a topic on TV shows, on the Internet and on the front pages of newspapers, with many cheering him for standing up to the often-inhospitable world of airline travel and others accusing him of childish and dangerously reckless behavior. Ricky's of NYC made a Halloween costume of him last year.

But Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said it was no laughing matter. Brown scolded Slater — and the public — for not taking his actions more seriously. It cost $25,000 to fix the slide, and the plane had to be taken out of service, causing flight delays. The airline has also pointed out that someone on the ground could have gotten hurt — emergency slides deploy with potentially deadly force.

Brown said Wednesday he was satisfied with the outcome of the case and it "benefits society by fairly balancing the seriousness of the charges against the defendant's need for rehabilitation."

Slater, who has no criminal history, said he cracked under pressure because of his terminally ill mother, recently deceased father and health problems of his own, including HIV. A mental-health evaluation determined that Slater has a clinical disorder and alcohol-abuse problems. He was treated through the Queens Mental Health Court, an alternative to more traditional criminal justice. Every participant is assigned a case manager who prepares an individualized program and monitors progress. Graduates and success stories are often applauded in court.

Story: Flight attendants: Bartenders or bad cops?

JetBlue Airways Corp. suspended Slater after the incident and he resigned a year ago, leaving him unemployed. He must pay his former employer $10,000 in restitution, which is $831.25 a month.

Slater, 39, said his memoir was going to be a tribute to overworked flight attendants everywhere.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: JetBlue attendant: ‘Perfect storm’ led to meltdown

  1. Closed captioning of: JetBlue attendant: ‘Perfect storm’ led to meltdown

    >>> steven slater speaking out. he is the jetblue flight attendant that cursed out passengers over the intercom. he avoided jail time by agreeing to undergo counseling for at least a year. i spoke to slater following his sentence and i began by asking him if he was surprised that so people at first applauded what he did?

    >> i think a lot of people were saying it's about time. they might not have necessarily agreed with the vehicle for this statement, but a lot of people sort of had a sense of, well, it's about time.

    >> we'll go back and talk more about that day in detail in a second. but when you look back, do you have regrets about that day, or did that reaction, that surprise reaction of, hey, good for you pal, you touched a nerve.

    >> at the end of the day , would i have chosen to make the same decisions again, probably not.

    >> any of them? would you have not shown up for work that day or would you have just not done certain things that day?

    >> it was definitely time to go and i shouldn't have allowed myself to get to a point where i had become so frustrated.

    >> you were on that plane and according to your first version of the story, there was an obnoxious passenger, she was putting something in the overhead compartment, it fell on your head and you got on the loud speaker and grabbed a beer and out you went.

    >> there were a number of different versions. it started in pittsburgh , the injury happened on the ground in pittsburgh during the boarding process. and it's one of those perfect storms, the airline industry that has created this monster, where we're charging you to check your bags and all of a sudden we're not going to police what's coming on board the airplane. so the initial insult if you will happens in pittsburgh .

    >> so did it happen on that plane?

    >> it happened on board.

    >> did it happen with a bag coming down from the overhead compartment and a rude passenger?

    >> it all started in pittsburgh and the decision that i made which was probably not the best one at the time. i should have said, time out, i'm going to have somebody take a look at this and i'll be back.

    >> federal investigators have gone through the passengers, they have talked to everybody, no one says they remember this, they don't remember that passenger doing this, they don't remember the altercation in the aisle way of that plane.

    >> it was not nearly as spectacular as it's been made out to be. it was not a huge event or i would have left right then and there.

    >> those who disagree with you say the gash happened before you ever got on that plane, they say you had been drinking before you ever got on that plane. were you drunk before you boarded that plane?

    >> i was not drunk.

    >> had you been drinking?

    >> i had been out, i had been out the night before, i was sleep deprived, it was a rough night and it was probably not the best professional appearance.

    >> were you abrasive to passengers on that plane before that passenger in your opinion was rude to you?

    >> no, unfortunately, this whole thing started during the boarding process and that set a very bad tone.

    >> i want to ask you about your state of mind going in, you said you had been thinking about something like this for 20 years. so was it premeditated? was this action -- were you just simply waiting for the opportunity to do this?

    >> let me clarify this, because that was something that was taktake grossly out of context. it was said have you ever thought about -- for 20 years we have practiced this move. i have thought about what it would be like if we ever had to do so. it turned into steven slater premeditated this for 20 years.

    >> you didn't go in that day saying today' my day, this is when it's all going to come down.

    >> i would have called you all first and said there's going to be something going on at jfk get yourselves down there?

    >> i know you've been through a lot in your personal life . your dad passed away of lou gehrig 's disease. you've been helping to care for your mom who's quite ill. you are hiv positive . how would you describe your emotional state at that time of your career back in august?

    >> i will say that i was stressed out and i was burned out, and something had to give, it didn't necessarily need to give the way it did, but it certainly needed to give.

    >> you've got to undergo counseling and substance abuse treatment for a year. and you've got to pay restitution to jetblue in of $10,000. are you someone who considers yourself to be clinically depressed?

    >> no.

    >> so you're going along with the kounszing just because --

    >> i'm going along with the counseling because it's a wonderful opportunity to handle some of these life stress issues we have just discussed. it give mess a vehicle to turn some things around.

    >> are you an alcoholic.

    >> i am a recovering alcoholic , yes.

    >> daily battle.

    >> one day at a time.

    >> you have said that you would like to fly again.

    >> i would like to return to what it was not what it is. and i have come to a place of acceptance that what was is no longer available today. and i have come to terms with that. i had a fantastic, fantastic time. i embraced being a flight attendant, i loved being a flight attendant, unfortunately, today's industry is not where i need to be.

    >> for those who said good for you, atta boy, i'm frustrated too. did they rally around the right cause or did they rally around perhaps a not quite true version of the events?

    >> it's been challenging in that what we have seen has been very much a media created 3-dimensional story. there's a lot of symbolism in it. i'm thankful that people did get a laugh. i didn't obviously do this for comic relief. but i think it was a moment for people to pause and take a breath and say, you know what? i get this.

    >> former flight attendant steven slater .


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