Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Charges dropped against traveler

Was unsound, prosecutor says

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HEBRON - Federal prosecutors have dropped a charge against a man who lost his temper almost a year ago when asked to leave an airplane lavatory and be seated for takeoff.

Jeffrey Koutroulis, 41, of Washington had been in federal custody for seven months on a charge of interfering with the duties of a flight attendant while in a Delta plane at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport on Jan. 2.

In dismissing the charge on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob McBride said that Koutroulis was mentally unsound at the time of the incident.

The crew asked an off-duty Comair pilot on board to help get Koutroulis out of the restroom, according to court records. When that pilot asked Koutroulis to return to his seat, he said he would do so when he was ready.

Using obscenities, Koutroulis threatened "to poke the pilot's eyes out and knock the pilot's head off," according to court records. The plane returned to the terminal so Koutroulis could be removed.

The FBI claimed that Koutroulis said he "did not want to continue..." because he "had a bad feeling it was going to crash" after being escorted from the plane and told he would have to wait at least one day to get another Delta flight.

Koutroulis disputed he made that statement in court documents. He said he told airline officials he was tired and "needed a place to crash." He was returning from a trip to Greece, was physically ill and had been traveling for 14 to 16 hours before the incident.

"The moral of the story is be very careful of your mannerisms and what you say on a plane," said Koutroulis's attorney, Ed Massey of Erlanger. "Every action is taken very seriously.

"Your rights, in some degree, are becoming less and less as the nation tries to combat terrorism."

Massey said one of the more unfortunate parts of the incident was that his client was jailed for seven months on no bond. Koutroulis was not released from federal custody until Dec. 23.


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