(ATLANTA) — A former Idaho executive accused of smacking a crying toddler on a flight pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday in federal court.
Joe Hundley, 60, faces simple assault charges after he allegedly slapped 19-month-old Jonah Bennett on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta on Feb. 8. If convicted, he could face up to one year in jail.
Marcia Shein, Hundley’s attorney, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution her client had been on the way to Atlanta to take his son off life support when the alleged incident occurred.
“He was grieving and very upset,” she said. “That’s why we’re going to trial.”
The toddler’s mother, Jessica Bennett, told ABC News last month she was sitting with her son and Hundley, who was a stranger to her, in Row 28 of a Delta Airlines flight.
“Jonah starts crying because he’s feeling the pressure in his ears,” Bennett said.
At that point, Hundley, according to court documents, told Bennett to “Shut that [n-word] baby up.”
“I said, ‘What did you just say?'” Bennett said. “And he was so drunk that he fell onto my face, and his mouth moved over to my ear and he said it, just directly into my ear.”
Hundley then allegedly smacked Jonah, according to Bennett.
“When I had looked at Jonah’s face, he had, his eye was swollen…and it was bleeding,” Bennett said. “I was just scared to death.”
Following the alleged incident, Hundley, who was employed as an executive at AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group, was let go from his position, his employer told ABC News.
AGC’s President and CEO Al Hasse called the allegations “embarrassing” and said they did “not in any way reflect the patriotic character of the men and women of diverse backgrounds who work tirelessly in our business.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Wayne Drash, CNN
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN