A JetBlue Airways flight attendant accused of trying to smuggle nearly 60 pounds of cocaine in her carry-on luggage and than kicking off her heels and fleeing the terminal when she was pulled aside for a random baggage search at Los Angeles International Airport has pleaded not guilty to a federal charge.
Marsha Gay Reynolds, 31, entered her plea before a U.S. magistrate judge to a single count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The felony charge is punishable by a 10-year mandatory minimum prison term, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A status conference in the case is set for May 9 before U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder, but a May 31 trial date will likely be postponed after Friday’s hearing.
Reynolds, of Queens, New York, sprinted down an up escalator and out of LAX, leaving behind her luggage, after she was randomly selected for secondary screening, prosecutors allege.
The following day, she worked a JetBlue flight back to New York and surrendered to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents there on March 23, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy.
At a previous hearing in downtown Los Angeles, Reynolds was ordered held without bail pending trial.
A former beauty pageant contestant in Jamaica, Reynolds has been a New York-based JetBlue employee for six years. Her lawyer said she was also a nursing student, but has withdrawn from school.
The alleged drug discovery was made March 18 in Terminal 4 by a Transportation Security Administration security officer who was screening the airline attendant’s carry-on bags as part of a random search, according to an FBI affidavit.
As the TSA officer led Reynolds to a location to be searched, she made a cellphone call — speaking in what sounded like a foreign language — then kicked off her Gucci high heels and ran from the terminal down the up escalator, the affidavit says.
“Upon being notified she was going to secondary screening, she appeared nervous and kept her distance from the supervisor,” U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte said at an April 8 bail review hearing. “And before the bags were even open, she utilized her track skills to flee from the airport,” the judge said.
Prosecutors allege Reynolds’ abandoned luggage was found to contain 11 individually wrapped packages — labeled “Big Ranch” — that were taken to the Los Angeles police’s Forensic Science Division, where the contents tested positive for cocaine.
“It takes a very bold criminal to run through the airport — and come back the next day and flee the district,” El-Amamy said.
In the wake of the foiled drug-smuggling attempt, Los Angeles Airport Police Officers Association President Marshall McClain called for 100 percent screening of all passengers and employees at LAX.
–City News Service