Man appears in court in airplane toddler slap case

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — An Idaho man charged with slapping a toddler on a Minneapolis-to-Atlanta flight made an initial appearance in federal court Tuesday.

Joe Rickey Hundley, 60, surrendered to federal agents and then stood before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mikel H. Williams, who appeared via video at the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Hundley, of Hayden, Idaho, was released by the magistrate on a $10,000 unsecured bond.

As conditions of his release, the Hundley cannot drink alcohol or possess firearms and must surrender his passport. He cannot travel outside of Idaho, eastern Washington state, or the northern district of Georgia, where the case will be tried.

Hundley is accused of slapping the 19-month-old boy during a Feb. 8 Delta Air Lines flight. Hundley has been charged in Atlanta with simple assault. His attorney says he will plead not guilty.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison if Hundley is convicted.

Hundley was president of Unitech Composites and Structures, an aerospace company in Hayden. But he was fired last weekend by Unitech’s parent company, AGC Aerospace &Defense, because of the in-flight incident.

There was no answer at Hundley’s home when an Associated Press reporter knocked on the door Tuesday. He has an unlisted telephone number.

The boy’s mother, Jessica Bennett, 33, told the FBI their flight was on final descent into Atlanta when her son started to cry. Hundley “told her to shut that (N-word) baby up,” according to a statement from an FBI agent. Bennett said Hundley then slapped the child in the face, scratching the boy below his right eye and causing him to scream even louder.

Bennett has said Hundley appeared intoxicated, became increasingly obnoxious during the flight and complained her son was too big to sit on her lap.

Bennett has said she was shocked by the racial slur. She and her husband are white, while the child, Jonah, whom they adopted, is black.

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