No Laughing Matter

Friday, August 13, 2010 - 10:14am

Queens District Attorney says he's taking the Steven Slater incident very seriously.

The flight attendant suddenly famous for his expletive-filled exit from a plane at New York's Kennedy Airport wants to return to flying.

Steven Slater's attorney, Howard Turman, said at news conference Thursday outside his client's home in Belle Harbor, Queens, that flying "is in his blood."

Slater briefly thanked all the people who had sent him support and love since his Monday meltdown aboard a JetBlue flight.

Travelers say Slater cursed at passengers over the public address system after several odd run-ins with them during the 90-minute flight from Pittsburgh.

Prosecutors say he deployed the emergency slide and made an escape.

He's charged with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.

Turman, a Legal Aid attorney, hinted that some plea deal may be in the works with the prosecutors.

"We have engaged in preliminary discussions with the District Attorney's office, about a favorable outcome for all parties involved," said Turman. "My client is hopeful that this will work out."

But Queens District Attorney Richard Brown told NBC station WNBC "There have been no discussions with respect to a disposition. We have a ongoing investigation with many more witnesses to speak to. This is a serious case."

Meanwhile, law enforcement sources said that investigators have interviewed more than 50 people -- over half of the passengers on the the flight -- and haven't exactly corroborated Slater's version of the story.

"Our conclusion based on the evidence so far is that this was a flight attendant who faced the normal aggravations of the job -- he was wound up tight and simply snapped," one investigator said.

For its part, JetBlue Chief Operating Officer Rob Maruster late Thursday sent a page-long memo to the company's nearly 12,000 employees saying that Slater's actions "will not and can not be tolerated."

Maruster also noted that deploying the emergency slide can be very dangerous.

"Slides deploy extremely quickly, with enough force to kill a person," wrote Maruster. "Slides can be as dangerous as a gun, and that's the reason we have intensive initial and recurrent training. It is an insult to all aviation professionals to have this particular element of the story treated without the seriousness it deserves."

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