ATLANTA, Georgia — An Idaho man accused of uttering a racial slur and slapping a crying 19-month-old on a Delta Air Lines flight pleaded not guilty in Atlanta federal court Tuesday.
Joe Ricky Hundley, 60, is charged with simple assault in the Feb. 8 incident.
The boy’s mother, Jessica Bennett, 33, of Minnesota and her son were seated in row 28, seat B, on Delta Flight 721 that originated in Minneapolis.
As the plane began its descent into Atlanta, the boy began to cry because of the altitude change and his mother tried to soothe him.
Then Hundley, who was seated next to the mother and son, allegedly told her to “shut that (‘N word’) baby up.”
Hundley then turned around and slapped the child in the face with an open hand, which caused him to scream even louder, an FBI affidavit said.
The boy suffered a scratch below his right eye.
Other passengers on the plane assisted Bennett, and one of them heard the slur and witnessed the alleged assault, the affidavit said.
“I could not believe that he would say something like that and to a baby or about a baby and then to hit him was just, I felt like I was in another world. I was shaking,” Bennett told CNN affiliate KARE in Minneapolis.
The charge of simple assault on someone under age 16 carries a prison sentence of one year, court papers said.
In 2007, Hundley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge filed in Virginia, according to court records.