After a sentencing hearing on Friday, a woman who was part of a fight on a Southwest Airlines flight that caused a flight attendant to break her jaw was sentenced to five years of federal probation and given a $250 fine.
Brenda Marie Aquino-Washington, 22, of El Paso, Texas, was arrested on January 9, 2021, after a Southwest flight from Nashville to San Antonio had to make an emergency detour to Little Rock National Airport in Arkansas because a flight attendant was repeatedly punched in the face.
According to court documents, Aquino-Washington got into a fight with flight attendants after she took off her face mask and then got angry when she was told to put it back on.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette says that Aquino-Washington threw food in the face of a flight attendant and then attacked her by punching her in the face over and over again.
After a while, other crew members were able to pull Aquino-Washington off the victim and put her in restraints while the pilots changed course and flew to Little Rock.
The flight attendant is still in constant pain and has some trouble moving her jaw.
Instead of a more serious felony crime, federal prosecutors chose to charge Aquino-Washington with the less serious misdemeanor crime of assault in a maritime and territorial jurisdiction.
For this crime, the maximum punishment is a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, but US sentencing guidelines say that judges should give offenders probation and a fine instead.
Court records show that Aquino-Washington was having a mental health crisis at the time of the attack. She has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her lawyer said that she hadn’t been told before the flight that she would act the way she did.
A few months after this happened, a Southwest flight attendant was hit in the face multiple times by a passenger on a Sacramento-to-San Diego flight over a face mask.
After that fight, Southwest put off selling alcohol onboard again because they were afraid that bad behavior from passengers would only get worse.
Vyvianna M. Quinonez of Sacramento pleaded guilty to interfering with a crew member. She will spend 15 months in prison and pay $33,000 in fines and restitution.