A 23-year-old Tampa man tried to open an emergency exit door on a flight from Seattle to Beijing and then assaulted flight attendants and passengers before he was hit over the head with two wine bottles, zip-tied and restrained, federal authorities say.
Joseph Daniel Hudek IV was charged Friday, July 7, with interfering with a flight crew, a federal offense that carries a possible 20-year sentence, the Associated Press reports.
After Hudek was taken down by the flight attendants and passengers, the pilots turned the Delta Air Lines flight back to Seattle. He was taken off of the plane by police and remains in federal custody.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hudek Wasn’t Fazed When the Full Bottle of Red Wine Was Broken Over His Head & Asked ‘Do You Know Who I Am’ After Being Hit, the FBI Says
Joe “JoJo” Hudek was a passenger on Delta Air Lines Flight 129 from Seattle to Beijing, which left Sea-Tac Airport at 5:10 p.m. He was seated in 1D in the first class cabin near the front of the plane, FBI Special Agent Caryn Highley wrote in an affidavit. She said that Hudek asked a flight attendant for a beer and was served one before the flight took off. He “did not have any additional alcoholic drinks in flight,” and the flight attendant said he “exhibited no signs of intoxication or impairment,” Highley wrote.
About an hour into the flight, as the plane was over Pacific Ocean, northwest of Vancouver Island, Canada, Hudek got out of his seat and went to the front galley area of the plane. Witnesses told Highley that he “briefly entered the lavatory,” but “exited quickly” and asked a flight attendant a question. Hudek then went back into the lavatory, Highley wrote.
About “two minutes later, Hudek exited the lavatory and lunged toward the forward right exit door of the aircraft, grabbed the handle and attempted to open it,” Highley wrote. Two flight attendants grabbed Hudek “in an effort to subdue him and prevent his attempts to open the door. Hudek pushed (the flight attendants) away and continued to attempt to open the exit door.”
One of the flight attendants then asked for help from several passengers who were looking up the aisle at the altercation and notified the cockpit by phone of the “emergency situation,” Highley wrote. The pilot contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and the plane was diverted back to Seattle, she wrote.
According to the affidavit, one of the flight attendants, identified as D.S., continued to struggle with Hudek, and the 23-year-old Tampa man punched the Delta employee in the face. The other flight attendant, identified as E.L.D. told Highley that Hudek punched D.S. in the face twice and “hit at least one assisting passenger in the head with a red dessert wine bottle.”
As Hudek struggled with the passenger and continued to try to open the door, the flight attendant identified as E.L.D. “grabbed two wine bottles and struck Hudek over the head with each, breaking at least one,” Highley wrote.
The flight attendant told the FBI agent, “Hudek did not (seem) impacted by the breaking of a full liter red wine bottle over his head, and instead shouted, ‘Do you know who I am?’ or something to that extent.”
The passenger was then able to get Hudek into a head lock from behind, but Hudek got himself out of it. Several other passengers from the first class cabin then joined in the struggle and helped restrain Hudek until zip ties could be applied.
“However, Hudek remained extremely combative and multiple passengers were needed to restrain Hudek and keep him restrained until the plane landed safely back at Sea-Tac Airport.”
One passenger told KIRO-TV, “They broke two bottles of wine on his head. I tried to choke him and he just threw me off like a rag doll.”
You can read the full criminal complaint below:
The plane landed back at Sea-Tac Airport about 7:10 p.m. and Port of Seattle Police Department officers boarded to take Hudek into custody. He, “remained combative and noncompliant with officers throughout the process.”
Dustin Jones, a passenger on the flight, told KIRO, “He started yelling for help. And so he turned the wheelchair over in the middle of the airport, screaming for people to help him, just being belligerent.”
When interviewed by the FBI, multiple passengers told agents “they were in fear for their lives because they saw Hudek using significant force to attempt to open the forward exit door.”
One of flight attendants said Hudek was able to move the door’s mechanism and push the emergency release lever half way up to 90 degrees, according to the affidavit:
E.L.D. described to Special gent Highley that the lever being at the 90 degree position would alert the pilot that the door was disarmed. E.L.D. further described that at a lower altitude, and with the door being disarmed as it was, it was possible that the door would open. As numerous passengers were continuing to restrain Hudek right in front of the forward right door, E.L.D. had to provide instructions to one of the passengers on how to arm the door and bring the lever back to the locked position.
According to the affidavit, a flight attendant and a passenger were taken to a local hospital “due to severe facial injuries.”
In court documents, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Masada wrote that “the injuries sustained by the victims during the in-flight altercation with the defendant were quite severe.”
But Masada did not provide further information about those injuries, noting that photographs, which have not been made public, could be provided to the judge to help decide if Hudek should remain in federal custody pending his trial.
There were about 210 passengers along with 11 flight crew members on the Boeing 767, Highley wrote in the affidavit.
In a statement, Delta said, “The passenger was restrained onboard and was removed from the flight by law enforcement without further incident when the aircraft arrived back in Seattle.” The airline said the plane then left for Beijing after the “security incident.”
According to CNN, federal authorities do not believe there is a national security threat connected to the incident. There are also no known ties to international terrorism. After some reports indicated fighter jets escorted the plane back to the Seattle airport, Lieutenant Commander Joe Nawrocki, a spokesman for NORAD, told CNN that the jets were ready on the runway as a precaution, but did not take off. Two F-15 jets were at Portland International Airport preparing to meet the plane, but did not take off, CNN reports, citing LiveATC.net.
The flight left for Beijing just after midnight.
2. His Mother Is a Delta Employee & Hudek Was Traveling on a Dependent Pass to Visit a Friend in China
Hudek’s mother, Linda Hine Hudek, is a longtime employee of Delta Air Lines, according to her Facebook page. She has worked as a customer service representative and reservation agent at Delta since 1998, she says on the page.
Court documents obtained by Heavy show that Joseph Hudek was flying on a dependent pass.
According to USA Today, Delta offers reduced rate or free tickets to family and guests of its employees for leisure travel.
“A Delta employee can give Buddy Passes to family members and friends. The employee can also assist them with flight availability and refunds, if necessary. Pass holders can also contact Delta Reservations to check flight availability, but because they are not airline customers, they are encouraged to keep their calls short,” USA Today says. “A pass holder cannot use his pass for a flight for which he has ever had a confirmed reservation.
“Delta Airlines considers holders of Buddy Passes to be representatives of the airline, and expects them to behave according to standard business etiquette while flying. Pass holders should adhere to a relaxed dress code and avoid unclean, inappropriate or provocative clothing, as well as offensive behavior,” USA Today reports. “Disregarding airline policies may result in the revocation of Buddy Pass eligibility and serious consequences for the Delta employee who gave away the pass.”
Delta has not commented about who gave the dependent pass to Hudek. It has also not issued a statement about Linda Hudek’s employment status.
3. Hudek Was Accused of Assaulting a Juvenile & Underage Drinking When He Was 18, but the Cases Weren’t Prosecuted
Hudek, then 18, was arrested on April 28, 2012, in Treasure Island, Florida, and charged with felony child abuse battery and possession of alcohol by a minor, according to jail records. He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail that day and released on April 29 on $1,500 bond.
According to a police report obtained by Heavy, Hudek and his friends were accused of assaulting a juvenile, causing “great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement to the child.” Police said Hudek was in a “physical altercation with the juvenile during a fight.”
Police said the juvenile was walking on the sidewalk when Hudek and his friends pulled up in a vehicle. A “verbal confrontation” ensued between Hudek and his friends and the juvenile and his friends, according to the police report. Police said Hudek and his friends exited their vehicle and “initiated the altercation.”
Hudek was accused of punching the victim in the face and neck with a “closed fist” causing a “1/4 inch laceration,” and leaving the juvenile “bleeding from his left incisor and canine teeth.”
Police said Hudek was cooperative at the scene.
You can read the police report below:
According to another police report, Hudek was also charged with possession of alcohol by a minor. When officers arrived they spotted Hudek dumping out a red solo cup, which he admitted had beer in it, the report says. Details of the child abuse charge were not available.
According to Pinellas County court records viewed by Heavy, the misdemeanor possession of alcohol charge was dropped in June 2012. The court website lists the felony child abuse with the note “access to this case is limited.” His bail was refunded and the prosecutor also dropped the felony case in June 2012.
Hudek was also arrested in 2008 and charged with trespassing and criminal mischief, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
4. His Grandfather Says Hudek, Who Went to Florida State, Is a ‘Great Kid’ & He Doesn’t ‘Know What Happened’
Hudek’s grandfather, Joseph Hudek, told KCPQ-
TV he was shocked by what happened.
“He’s a great kid, he’s a real good guy; he works hard, saves his money, I don’t know what happened,” the elder Hudek told the news station. “This is so out of character of him, I can’t believe it.”
Hudek’s grandfather also confirmed that his grandson’s mother works for Delta.
According to his Facebook page, where he calls himself Jojo Hudek, he went to H.B. Plant High School in Tampa, where he was a standout baseball player and also played football. He also attended Florida State University. He started studying at the school in 2015, according to his Facebook page. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Hudek did attend school there in the spring. Florida State officials called him a former student, and said he took classes as a senior last semester.
Hudek is the nephew of former Major League Baseball player John Hudek, who pitched for the Houston Astros, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves during a 6-year career from 1994 to 1999.
Friends were shocked by what happened.
“It’s so out of character,” Nick Rich, who has been friends with Hudek since elementary school, told the Tampa Bay Times. “Everyone who knows him knows something went wrong here and they need to get to the bottom of it.”
Another friend, Tara McGowan, told the newspaper, “I know physically that was JoJo’s body, but we’re all just shocked because that’s not the JoJo anyone knows. He would never, ever hurt someone.
“I always joked he was my second boyfriend because he would do anything for me. He is just the most gentle, loving, selfless person you could ever meet,” she said.
Hudek works for his father’s construction company and also had a part-time job at a boat yard, his friends said, while taking classes online and living at his parent’s home.
Rich told the newspaper his friend didn’t have a history of mental health issues that he knew of, calling him a “clear-headed guy.”
He said Hudek is, “really such a nice kid he he’s never been the type to start something.
Rich also told the Tampa Bay Times he doesn’t think Hudek would have taken drugs or anything on the plane.
“Especially if he’s flying for free,” Rich said. “He’d never purposely do anything to impact his mom’s career and that benefit.”
5. Hudek Will Remain in Federal Custody While His Attorney Prepares to Argue for His Release
Joseph Hudek remains in federal custody at the Federal Detention Center SeaTac in Seattle, according to online records. He made a brief court appearance on Friday, July 7, arriving in a beige jail uniform with a scrape or bruise below his right eye, The Associated Press reports.
Prosecutors have requested his detention to continue, according to documents filed in federal court. You can read the prosecutor’s request for detention below:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Masada said in the document that Hudek should be detained because is accused of committing a crime of violence and there’s a serious risk the defendant will flee. He should be detained because of the risk he will not appear in court and because he is a danger to others, Masada argued.
“The defendant has no known ties to Western Washington and resides in or around Tampa, Florida,” Masada wrote. “Given the nature of the offense, travel to and from Florida presents an enhanced public safety concern.”
Hudek returned to court on July 13, and his attorney waived the detention hearing, requesting more time to prepare his argument for his client’s release, the Seattle Times reports. The lawyer, Robert Flennaugh II, told the court he has gathered 185 letters of support on his client’s behalf.
“People who know the true Joe Hudek want him to be released,” Flennaugh said in court, according to KING-TV. “During the first 24 hours of his detention, my office has received over 180 letters of support.”
Flennaugh said his client is sorry about what happened and feels awful about it.
“What he did was uncharacteristic,” Flennaugh said in court. “Flying is not new to him. He has been flying in planes since he was five. In fact, he has flown over 100 times. During those flights, he has never had an issue.”
Flennaugh told the court, “There are many, many people who want him released.”