Guatemalan cleared in incident on flight to isles
A federal jury deliberated three hours and found a 37-year-old Guatemalan man not guilty of assaulting a flight crew on a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Hawaii in December.
Santiago Lo Tizol had been held without bail and could have faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if he had been convicted.
FBI agents arrested Tizol on Dec. 9 after an incident on Northwest Flight 91 from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
Witnesses thought Tizol threatened to kill a 3-month-old infant aboard the plane.
But his attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Matthew Winters, said other passengers on the plane misunderstood what Tizol, a Spanish speaker, said.
"This was paranoia on a cramped plane where people were pretty stressed out," Winters said during closing arguments yesterday. "He was not trying to assault or intimidate anyone on this plane."
Tizol said through an interpreter: "I feel very satisfied. I'm very happy because I think I didn't do anything wrong. And I thank everybody who did everything for me."
Tizol said planned to fly to Kona, his destination on Dec. 9 before his arrest, and plans to work in landscaping, his job in Los Angeles before coming to Hawaii.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Shipley would only say after the trial: "We respect the jury system. We respect the jury's verdict, and we're satisfied."
Winters said his client accidentally spilled water, drenching his clothes and seat, and had taken his cell phone and cord out of his pocket and wiped it. He was seen frequently standing up and failed to comply when flight attendants yelled at him in English to return to his seat.
When Tizol, a slight man less than 5 feet tall, headed toward the first-class bathroom near the cockpit, at least four passengers -- including two 6-foot, 200-pound men -- tackled him, Winters said.
Winters told jurors that Tizol used a Spanish word they thought sounded like "baby" and believed he was going to strangle the baby with the cord.
Defense witnesses said Tizol was getting up because he was wet. He felt uncomfortable after flight attendants yelled at him in English and other passengers stared him down, Winters said.
Winters said, "All he did was get up too many times, get in the aisle and not follow directions to his wet seat."