A New York man was sentenced to federal prison Tuesday for disrupting a United Airlines flight by trying to get into the cockpit and yelling "jihad!"
David Patrick Diaz, 36, of Poughkeepsie was sentenced to nine months in prison and three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $22,152 to United in restitution and to complete mental health and substance abuse treatment.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga said Diaz "terrorized the passengers and endangered the safety of everyone on the plane."
Diaz admitted that he disrupted a flight from Washington, DC's Dulles Airport to Denver on March 16, 2015. Investigators say less than a minute after it took off, he ran to the front of the plane, pulled on the cockpit door handle, and shouted, "The plane is not going fast enough. We need to go faster. It's going to go down. We are going down."
After three passengers and a flight attendant tackled him, he yelled that there was something in the belly of the plane and the words "jihad" and "bomb."
The plane returned to Dulles, and Diaz was arrested. He pleaded guilty in January to a charge of interfering with the flight crew.
In court documents, prosecutors said he had alcohol abuse and mental health problems. While awaiting trial and sentencing, he was arrested three times for drunk driving and public intoxication. "The defendant has a history of using drugs and/or alcohol and then engaging in reckless conduct that could harm others," government lawyers said.
Investigators said Diaz boarded then left two Virgin America flights before getting on the United flight to Denver. On March 15, 2015, he boarded a flight to Dallas, walking back and forth before deciding he wanted to fly the next day and left the plane.
On March 16, he boarded a different flight to Dallas but was so noncompliant with crew instructions that the pilot taxied back to the gate and ordered Diaz off the plane. Prosecutors said before boarding the United flight, he had consumed 14 alcoholic drinks at airport bars.