When a flight attendant asked her sleeping husband to wear his mask correctly, Debby Dutton left her seat to verbally and physically assault the flight attendant, taking umbrage with the request. The flight attendant suffered injuries and Dutton is now facing a 20-year sentence for her actions.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office from the Northern District of California, the fifty-year-old Dutton who hails from Cypress Texas took issue with a flight attendant who used two fingers to tap her sleeping husband in an attempt to wake him from slumber. The San Francisco-bound United Airlines flight originated in Alaska and was in the final hours of the flight. Her husband’s face mask had fallen off his face while sleeping and the flight crew member woke the man so he could adjust it. He did so without incident.
However, Dutton, lept from her seat and confronted the flight attendant in an angry rant that soon got physical.
The U.S. Attorney’s office noted in an affidavit filed in court, the following:
“Dutton was the wife of that passenger and was sitting next to him. As the flight attendant continued down the aisle, the complaint affidavit describes that Dutton got up from her seat and angrily shouted at the flight attendant. The flight attendant tried to explain that the passenger had not been wearing his face mask, but Dutton continued to scream and walked towards the flight attendant.
The complaint affidavit describes that Dutton pushed the flight attendant. The force of the push on the flight attendant’s right arm caused the attendant to step back to maintain balance. Dutton pushed the flight attendant again, once more on the flight attendant’s right arm. The flight attendant told Dutton to stop. The passenger asked his wife Dutton to return to her seat, which Dutton eventually did. The flight attendant immediately reported the incident to the captain”Official Affadavit
The flight attendant suffered bruising on her right bicep and felt threatened by the passenger, describing the assault as “painful and forceful.” She sought medical attention upon landing and the local authorities intervened interviewing passengers and others who witnessed the incident.
Dutton is charged with one county of interference by assault, threat, or intimidation with flight crew members or attendants. This is a violation of Title 49, US Code, Section 46504, and carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison and a heady fine.
Passenger rage has increased fivefold from 2020 according to reports from the federal government and as noted by the San Francisco Chronicle. Over 5,000 reports have been filed this year alone. Just a few days ago a 32-year-old woman was arrested after punching a Southwest Airlines employee. That employee was taken to a local hospital.
A recent flight attendant survey indicated that 85% of those flight attendants surveyed experienced in-flight incidents and that many are facing depression with some even reporting suicidal thoughts. Nearly 3/4 of reported incidents are related to mask-wearing as many passengers continue to maintain frustration levels with the federal mask mandate for air travel.
Readers are reminded that Dutton is presumed innocent until proven guilty.