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Executive, charged with slapping baby on Delta flight, loses job

February 18, 2013|By Matt Pearce

Rough flight.

A 60-year-old business executive accused of drunkenly slapping a 2-year-old and referring to him with a racial slur has been fired, according to a statement issued Sunday by his company.

Joe Rickey Hundley faces a federal charge for simple assault on a minor during a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta on Feb. 8.

Hundley, president of Unitech Composites and Structures, an Idaho-based aerospace construction company, was sitting next to Jessica Bennett, 33, and her son Jonah, identified in court documents as JS, who began to cry as the plane descended into Atlanta.

According to a probable cause statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hundley "told her to shut that ['N word'] baby up."

Bennett said Hundley "then turned around and slapped [JS] in the face with an open hand, which caused the juvenile victim to scream even louder," at which point other passengers came to her aid.

She said Hundley's slap scratched her son beneath the eye. Another passenger, Todd Wooten, told investigators he heard "derogatory language" and saw Hundley slap the boy.

Unitech's parent company, AGC Aerospace & Defense, issued a statement Sunday cutting ties with Hundley.

“Reports of the recent behavior of one of our business unit executives while on personal travel are offensive and disturbing," the statement said, without naming Hundley. "We have taken this matter very seriously and worked diligently to examine it since learning of the matter on Friday afternoon. As of Sunday, the executive is no longer employed with the company."

According to an archived employee profile that has since been scrubbed from the company's website, Hundley was appointed president of Unitech in September 2011 and previously held positions with Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and other aerospace companies.

The family is reportedly contemplating whether to sue. Hundley's attorney, Marcia Shein, has said he will plead not guilty to the federal charge.

"He is not a racist," Shein told Reuters. "I'm going to make that real clear because that's what people are suggesting. There's background information people don't know about, and in time it will come out. I'm sorry the family is upset. I can understand why they would be."

Jessica Bennett, the boy's mother, told ABC News, "He was so drunk that he fell onto my face, and his mouth moved over to my ear and he said it [the racial slur], just directly into my ear.”

She added, "When I had looked at Jonah’s face, he had, his eye was swollen … and it was bleeding,” Bennett said. “I was just scared to death.”

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matt.pearce@latimes.com


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