Maryland Woman's Plane Disturbance Case Dismissed - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Woman's Plane Disturbance Case Dismissed


OMAHA, Neb. (AP)- A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed the case against a Maryland woman accused of causing a disturbance aboard a flight that forced the airplane to make an unscheduled stop in Nebraska.

Court records gave no reason for U.S. Magistrate Judge F.A. Gossett's dismissal of the case against Marie Rita Manzoni. The U.S. Attorney's Office had earlier asked to have the case dropped.

Manzoni had faced a complaint of interference with flight crew members stemming from a March 29 incident involving United Airlines Flight 142. She could have faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Public defender Jeff Thomas declined Thursday to comment on any aspect of the case, including Manzoni's age and hometown.

A message left Thursday for Jan Sharp of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Omaha was not immediately returned.

Court documents say the flight was diverted to Omaha because of Manzoni's behavior and that she was subdued by two passengers. The Boeing 757 was carrying 148 passengers and six crew members. The plane was supposed to fly nonstop from San Francisco to Washington's Dulles Airport.

In court documents, FBI special agent E. Christopher Meztista said Manzoni told flight attendants that men seated near her were terrorists. He said one of the flight attendants spoke with the men after Manzoni moved to a seat in the back of the plane. The flight attendant didn't believe the men posed a threat.

Meztista said Manzoni, while still in the back of the plane, became agitated when one of the nearby flight attendants began using a laptop. A short time later, Manzoni demanded to return to her original seat but was told to stay where she was.

He said Manzoni later became hysterical and screamed "terrorist!" when she saw another flight attendant squeezing a "stress ball." She pushed her way to the front of the plane.

Flight attendants requested help from passengers to subdue Manzoni. A man tried to intervene, but Manzoni pushed her way to first class, Meztista said.

She was subdued there by two passengers, and flight attendants put her in restraints.

The plane landed without incident, and Manzoni was removed by Omaha Airport Authority police. 

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