A federal grand jury has indicted the three women from Long Island — Jordan Nixon, Janessa Torres, and Johara Zavala — with assaulting an airline employee performing security duties, according to the indictment unsealed Thursday. They were summoned Thursday, pleaded not guilty, and released on $25,000 bail with a family member as guarantor.
“Allegedly, the defendants brutally assaulted an airline security officer by hitting him on the ground with his radio and then kicking and punching him in the face and body as he landed,” Bron Pace, a United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York (Edney), said in a news release Thursday. “Extreme and aggressive behavior in relation to our flights is out of control,” he continued, saying his office had a “zero tolerance” policy for such violent behaviour.
Authorities described the September incident, saying that the gate agent had informed the flight crew of the “warlike” behavior of the three women, and that it had been determined they could not board the plane, Edney’s press release said. When a security officer asked to leave the jet lane, one of the defendants allegedly hit the security officer “repeatedly with his walkie-talkie,” and after he fell to the ground, the three punched and kicked him when he was on the ground, the statement said. .
According to the statement, prosecutors alleged that “the accused were belligerent, as one of them appeared to be visibly confused and possibly intoxicated, and the other was refusing to wear her mask properly.”
Federal and state officials alleged that the three women attacked two airline employees. The press release stated that the gate agent on one occasion attempted to assist the security officer, and one of the defendants allegedly punched the gate agent in the face. According to the indictment, the charges only reflect assault on the security officer.
Michael Driscoll, the FBI’s assistant director in charge, said the FBI is leading the arrests of those who attack or threaten cabin crew, adding, “We are aggressively responding to this emerging threat and take all cases seriously.”
During Thursday’s subpoena, a judge granted a woman special permission to travel on a paid trip to Florida for her birthday on Friday. The government asked the judge to deny the request due to her travel plans and the nature of the case related to the alleged violence while traveling, but the judge overruled it. The accused must surrender their passports.
All parties in court have said they intend to enter plea negotiations in the meantime. The next center conference is February 3rd.
CNN has reached out to the women’s attorney for comment.
Attorney Peter Guadagnino said his client Nixon, 21, “upholds her innocence and denies the allegations as defined in the government’s indictment.”
“We are waiting to see what discovery comes our way and what if anything is recorded in connection with the accident,” Guadagnino added.
Zavala’s attorney, Jacob Mitchell, declined to comment. A lawyer representing Torres could not immediately be reached for comment.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our employees and customers, and we have zero tolerance for physical violence at our airports and on our planes. We will work fully with law enforcement officials to ensure that this unacceptable behavior is not held accountable,” Delta said in a statement.
CNN’s Liam Reilly and Lauren Del Valle contributed to this report.