HONOLULU — A drunken passenger assaulted a flight attendant while flying from Japan to Honolulu, federal prosecutors said.
Kenji Okamoto pleaded guilty Friday to interfering with the duties of a flight attendant by assaulting and intimidating him.
According to a criminal complaint, Okamoto was flying first-class from Osaka for his honeymoon last month when flight attendants noticed he was drunk before takeoff and continued drinking alcoholic beverages during the flight.
Okamoto got upset when one of the flight attendants wouldn’t take his meal tray away, the court document said. The flight attendant told him his hands were full. Okamoto allegedly “threw a roundhouse type punch” at a flight attendant who intervened in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
Okamoto struck the flight attendant in his arms, which were raised to protect his head, the complaint said.
The Delta Air Lines flight crew told authorities that Okamoto later apologized while crying, remained calm for the remainder of the flight and eventually fell asleep.
After crew members restrained him in his seat, “Okamoto apologized for his actions by repeatedly saying ‘I’m sorry’ and bowed down on his knees and placed his head on the floor,” the complaint said.
During an interview with authorities, Okamoto said he’s in the construction business and was “drinking heavily because he was celebrating his honeymoon with his wife … that he married on April 20, 2014,” the complaint said. Okamoto told authorities that before boarding the plane, he had four glasses of beer and one glass of wine and he continued drinking champagne and wine while on board.
He said the incident happened “like a flash,” according to the court document, and that he doesn’t remember what exactly happened but that he was upset because he felt like he was being disrespected when the first flight attendant wouldn’t take his tray away.
U.S. Magistrate Kevin Chang initially allowed Okamoto, 30, of Kyoto, to be released on $50,000 bond, but U.S. Attorney Tracy Hino appealed, arguing that Okamoto didn’t disclose a previous conviction in Japan for assaulting a police officer. Hino’s appeal provided photos of the Okamoto’s near full-body tattoos, arguing that Okamoto is a flight risk and a danger.
Delta banned Okamoto from flying on the airline, according to Hino’s appeal.
U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright granted the appeal to keep him held without bail at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.
Because he was arrested at the airport, he never got to enjoy his honeymoon, which was to be spent at a luxury resort in east Honolulu, Hino said.
He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced on Sept. 22.
His federal public defender, Salina Althof, declined to comment after the guilty plea hearing.