Thursday, March 15, 2018

Court affirms conviction for in-flight assault intimidation of flight crewmember

U.S. v. Lynch, 2018 WL 706491 (10th Cir. 2/5/18) (Colo.) (published) - Affirmance of conviction of violating 49 U.S.C. 46504, which prohibits the in-flight assault or intimidation of a flight crew member or flight attendant that interferes with his or her duties. The court rejects Mr. Lynch's argument that the statute requires a specific mens rea because it finds nothing in the statutory language that requires more than the general intent that the conduct be voluntary and deliberate. Further, reading a mens rea into the statute could undermine Congress's regulatory purpose to promote airline safety. The statute is not unconstitutionally overbroad either because it sets out a content-neutral prohibition on conduct that is narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest. It is not vague because it adequately informs an ordinary citizen of what constitutes criminal behavior.

The district court properly denied a decrease for acceptance because Mr. Lynch raised factual, as well as legal, challenges at trial. The court also cites Mr. Lynch's conduct right after he was removed from the plane and decides the profanity and aggression he displayed toward arresting officers [when he was likely still drunk] was not indicative of acceptance of responsibility for his actions.