A woman who repeatedly punched a flight attendant on a San Diego-bound plane pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal count of interfering with flight crew members and attendants.
Vyvianna Quinonez of Sacramento, 28, admitted that while on a May 23 flight from Sacramento to San Diego, she hit a Southwest Airlines flight attendant identified only as S.L. in court documents. The victim suffered injuries that included three chipped teeth -- two of which sustained serious enough damage that they were replaced with crowns -- a bruised left eye, a cut under her eye requiring stitches, and bruising on her arm, according to court documents.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said that during the plane's descent into San Diego International Airport, S.L. asked Quinonez to wear her face mask properly, fasten her seat belt, and stow her tray table.
In her plea agreement, Quinonez admitted to pushing the flight attendant, punching S.L. in the face and head, and grabbing her by the hair, prompting other passengers to intervene.
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A probable cause statement filed with Quinonez's criminal complaint states that after she was taken into custody by San Diego Harbor Police at the airport, Quinonez told law enforcement she acted in self-defense.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is expected to recommend that Quinonez receive four months in custody and six months of home confinement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaclyn Stahl said, though the recommendation could be subject to changes prior to the sentencing date, which is set for March 11.
The parties will also jointly recommend a $5,000 fine, mandatory restitution payments, community service and anger management classes. Quinonez will also be barred from flying on commercial airlines for three years, according to the prosecutor.
"The flight attendant who was assaulted was simply doing her job to ensure the safety of all passengers aboard the plane,'' Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said. "It's inexcusable for anyone to use violence on an airplane for any reason, particularly towards a flight attendant who is there to keep all the passengers safe.''
The incident happened amid a rash of unruly passenger behavior on flights nationwide.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, nearly 5,779 unruly passenger incidents have been reported this year, with 4,156 incidents related to face masks, and more than $1 million in fines proposed for unruly passenger behavior in 2021.
The FAA and Transportation Security Administration also announced Tuesday that passengers facing fines for unruly behavior may have their TSA PreCheck privileges revoked.