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Man Accused in Flight Fracas Pleads

January 5, 1999

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A man charged with attacking a flight attendant on a plane was wandering around first class before the fracas, saying he was Jesus and blessing passengers by tapping them with a pillow, witnesses testified.

It took five people to subdue Dean Trammel, 22, during the December 1997 US Airways flight from Los Angeles to Baltimore, one witness testified Monday, the first day of Trammel’s trial.

``He had the strength of 10 men,″ said Peter Rebstock, a pilot who was riding in first class as a passenger. ``It was a free-for-all _ he was biting and thrashing.″

Trammel pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court. He is charged with assault and interfering with a crew member aboard a flight, both felonies. The trial continued today.

Flight attendant Renee Sheffer said Trammel flung her over three rows of seats and kicked her when she tried to restrain him. He also predicted the plane was going to crash and that he needed to get into the cockpit to bless the crew, she said.

``He said he was Jesus,″ she said.

Defense lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake to consider finding Trammel not criminally responsible _ the equivalent of an insanity defense.

After the plane landed, Trammel told Maryland Transportation Authority Police he had ``a couple of drinks and went crazy″ while on the plane. But at a hearing in Baltimore two days later, a corrections officer told a judge that Trammel said he had taken LSD.

Rebstock said he had warned the flight crew before the fight that Trammel was acting strangely _ wandering around first class and blessing passengers by tapping them on the shoulder with an airline pillow.

Trammel was finally subdued when Ms. Sheffer, Rebstock, the other pilot, a military policeman and a male flight attendant hog-tied him with seat belts, plastic handcuffs and even an airline necktie.

The Association of Flight Attendants, a union that represents 43,000 flight workers nationwide, said assaults on flight attendants may have doubled in the last several years. Most airlines are reluctant to report such incidents to the Federal Aviation Administration, said union spokeswoman Cynthia Kain, because ``they don’t want passengers to think their airline is rowdy.″

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