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Conviction Is Upheld Over Threat on Jet

March 27, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

A federal appeals court Friday upheld the conviction of an Iranian immigrant who threatened to "kill all Americans" after he was caught smoking on an Air Canada flight two weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3-0 decision, rejected five separate challenges to the conviction by Javid Naghani, a Canoga Park businessman, who was given a two-year, nine-month sentence by U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew.

After Naghani's confrontation with flight attendants, the pilot turned the Boeing 767 bound for Toronto back to Los Angeles International Airport, where Naghani was arrested by a team of SWAT officers.

Naghani took the stand in his own defense at a December 2001 trial and denied making the threat. His lawyer contended that the flight crew overreacted.

But Assistant U.S. Atty. Elizabeth Yang said Naghani "went crazy" after being reprimanded for smoking.

Lew "properly found that Naghani was aware of the risk created by his smoking, obstreperous behavior and threats, and that such conduct constituted a gross deviation from a standard of ordinary care," Judge Raymond C. Fisher wrote.

"Naghani should have been aware that his behavior would divert the flight attendants' attention from their duties and require their presence. If an actual emergency had arisen at another part of the plane, the distraction would have delayed, and perhaps prevented, an effective response by the flight attendants."

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