Steven Slater's daring departure from a JetBlue Airways (JBLU) aircraft last month made him the darling of disgruntled airline employees everywhere. But the former flight attendant is showing less braggadocio these days, having agreed to a mental evaluation as he attempts to avoid jail time.
News of the plea deal came after a brief courtroom hearing Tuesday in the New York City borough of Queens, the Associated Press reported. Attorneys for both parties said a deal was being discussed that would allow Slater to perform community service in lieu of jail time should he agree to the exam.
In agreeing to the mental evaluation, Slater is showing he is taking the felony charges against him more seriously, said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. Charges against Slater include criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing after the Aug. 9 incident, which took place at Kennedy International Airport.
Slater's actions were prompted by a disagreement with an unruly passenger. After cursing out the passenger via the plane's public address system, Slater activated the emergency evacuation slide, grabbed a beer and slid down to the tarmac, before making his way home. JetBlue was silent immediately following the incident but did suspend Slater.
In the days following the incident, Slater became a cause célèbre for overworked and under-appreciated workers everywhere. Postings on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter hailed his actions.
Though his actions were largely viewed by the public as celebratory, Brown said activating the emergency slide cost JetBlue about $25,000 in repairs and required the plane to be taken out of service, causing flight delays. "It's no laughing matter," said Brown, in speaking to reporters after Tuesday's hearing.
In the days after the incident, Slater said he didn't activate the slide without first ensuring there was no one on the ground who might be injured by the rapidly deploying device. Slater also said he hoped to return to flying, but the company said last week that Slater no longer worked for the New York City-based airline.
Slater later clarified, saying he had quit and wasn't fired. A 20-year veteran of the airline industry, Slater worked for JetBlue for three years.
Slater's actions were believed to be driven in part by stress in his personal life, which include caring for his dying mother and his own health problems associated with HIV infection, said his attorney, Daniel J. Horowitz.
Horowitz said he hoped prosecutors would take into account Slater's "long-standing and well-regarded reputation in the industry."
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