Turkish man gets time served for disrupting flight

By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER

The Associated Press

HONOLULU — A Turkish man who said that a hallucination about a butterfly caused him to disrupt a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu won’t receive additional jail time under terms of his sentence handed down Monday.

Anil Uskanli was sentenced to the six months that he has spent locked up after the incident that triggered bomb-threat procedures and officials to scramble fighter jets to escort the plane to Honolulu. He was also ordered to pay American Airlines more than $8,500.

Uskanli’s behavior on the May flight was concerning, including when he walked to the front of the plane with a blanket wrapped around his head and carrying a laptop that crew members feared contained explosives, prosecutors said.

After Uskanli returned to his seat and with an off-duty officer sitting with him, the laptop remained on a drink cart, which prompted the captain to initiate bomb-threat procedures.

The Hawaii National Guard scrambled two fighter jets to escort the plane to Honolulu. The secretary of Homeland Security was briefed.

Last month, when he pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight crew, Uskanli blamed his behavior on the hallucination.

A butterfly suddenly came out of the pocket of the seat in front of him, Uskanli said at his guilty plea hearing. He said that the butterfly was going crazy and he tried to kill it.

He said he now realizes that he was ill and hallucinating.

Uskanli raised red flags while at Los Angeles International Airport, but experts said a lack of communication and an airline’s hesitancy to be caught on video booting a passenger played a role in allowing him to fly.

Uskanli had purchased a ticket at an airline counter in the middle of the night with no luggage and was arrested ahead of the flight to Hawaii after opening a door to a restricted airfield. Airport police said that he smelled of alcohol but was not intoxicated enough to be charged with public drunkenness, so he was given a citation and released.

“Our office is happy with the sentence and we think it was fair in this case,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Morgan Early.

A deportation hearing is scheduled for next week, said Gary Singh, his immigration attorney. “He just wants to go home,” Singh said.