A Bay Area man who allegedly assaulted a woman seated in front of him on a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco was arrested Wednesday by FBI agents in Los Angeles.
Witnesses said the alleged attack appeared to take place after the woman reclined her seat.
Lawrence Wells, 54, of Richmond, made his initial appearance in federal court in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday, but was not asked to enter a plea.
An indictment returned Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles charges Wells with one count of “assault resulting in serious bodily injury while on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.”
According to the indictment, Wells intentionally assaulted the woman on Oct. 18 after Southwest Airlines flight 2010 departed from Los Angeles International Airport.
According to witnesses, the woman was sitting in the row ahead of Wells and claimed that he tried to choke her because she reclined her seat.
About 10 minutes after the flight took off, the captain of the aircraft declared an emergency and returned to LAX, where the suspect was met by law enforcement officers, including FBI agents.
“The indictment alleges that Wells choked and punched the victim in the head with a closed fist, an act that resulted in serious bodily injury,” said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
If convicted of the charge, Wells faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.
— Wire reports
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