SAN FRANCISCO — A 50-year-old Cypress, Texas, woman has been charged with assaulting a flight attendant during a United Airlines flight from Anchorage to San Francisco International Airport earlier this year, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Debby Dutton appeared Friday in Houston federal court to face a charge of interference by assault, threat or intimidation with flight crew members or attendants, prosecutors said in a statement.
Citing a complaint filed in San Francisco federal court, prosecutors said Dutton was a passenger on a flight from Anchorage to San Francisco on June 29. Early in the flight, flight attendants advised passengers of the federal mask mandate on commercial flights. Passengers were also told that their mask might fall off, and anyone who was found without a mask, even those who were asleep, would be asked to put it back on.
Roughly 3 1/2 hours into the flight, a flight attendant walked down the aisle to collect trash and check passengers for mask compliance. She noticed several passengers without masks and asked them to put their masks back on. This included one passenger who had fallen asleep. The flight attendant used two fingers to tap the passenger on the shoulder and he complied with her request, prosecutors said.
Dutton was the wife of the passenger and was sitting next to him. As the flight attendant continued down the aisle, Dutton got up from her seat and “angrily shouted” at the flight attendant, prosecutors said. They added that the flight attendant tried to explain that Dutton’s husband had not been wearing his mask, but Dutton continued to scream and walked toward the flight attendant.
Prosecutors said Dutton then pushed the flight attendant two times in the arm. The flight attendant told Dutton to stop and Dutton’s husband asked her to return to her seat, which she eventually did. The incident was immediately reported to the captain.
Prosecutors said the flight attendant was caught off guard and felt threatened and afraid. She also described the alleged assault as painful and forceful.
“The pushes left bruising on the flight attendant’s right bicep,” prosecutors said in the statement.
If convicted of the charge, Dutton faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine. Dutton, who is out of custody, is scheduled to make her next court appearance Tuesday.