Man accused of assault during flight makes initial court appearance

A 32-year-old man accused of twice punching a flight attendant on a Thursday morning flight from Honolulu to Hilo made his initial appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.

Steven Sloan Jr. appeared via telephone from the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu, where he’s been held without bail on charges of assault and interfering with a flight crew — the latter a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment upon conviction.

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Sloan’s town of residence has not been provided by authorities or in court documents.

Sloan, who had been described in court documents as agitated and ranting by fellow passengers during Hawaiian Air Flight 152, sounded coherent and answered briefly questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Rom Trader.

The victim of the alleged assault — a male flight attendant identified in court documents by his initials — and two passengers quoted in court documents described the attack, which reportedly occurred at about 7:30 a.m., as unprovoked.

The flight attendant wasn’t seriously injured but was released from duty for rest after the plane returned to Honolulu. Sloan was taken into custody Thursday by state sheriff’s deputies while he was still aboard the plane.

A detention hearing via phone for Sloan was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. this Thursday before Trader. The U.S. attorney’s office has requested Sloan continued to be held without bail, with boxes on a form checked which describe Sloan as a potential flight risk and a danger to the community.

In addition, a preliminary hearing, also by telephone, was set for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 12, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter in Honolulu.

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Hawaiian Airlines said in a Monday email it has banned 174 individuals from flying with the carrier for up to a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some for unruly behavior and others for noncompliance. They did not provide a breakdown of how many for each.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, however, so-called “air rage” incidents have increased substantially since 2020.