A California man was convicted Thursday of interfering with flight attendants and crew members in a case that prosecutors said began when he became too affectionate with his girlfriend on a Raleigh-bound flight.
Carl William Persing, 41, will likely serve jail time for the federal felony conviction, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bowler said. A jury convicted Persing after a three-day trial in U.S. District Court in Wilmington.
Persing and his girlfriend were seen "embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable" during the flight, according to a criminal complaint. Prosecutors said Persing twice threatened a flight attendant who told the couple to stop and refused to serve them alcohol.
Defense attorney Deb Newton said her client will appeal. Persing, of Long Beach, Calif., could get up to 20 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, she said.
"He's devastated," Newton said. "By defending his right to be left alone on an airplane and by defending his civil rights, he lost his job."
Judge James C. Fox set an Aug. 6 sentencing date and told Persing he could fly on commercial and private aircraft only if traveling to and from court appearances.
Persing and Dawn Elizabeth Sewell were charged after a Sept. 15 flight from Los Angeles to Raleigh with a stop in Phoenix. The FBI met the couple when the plane landed in Raleigh.
Charges against Sewell, who was accused of assisting Persing, were dropped this week.