Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



Judge Reprimands Pilots for Wanting to Leave Town

Aired August 5, 2002 - 09:14   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Two America West pilots accused of operating an aircraft while intoxicated making their first public appearance since the arrest. They're in court, in Miami-Dade circuit court. We'll go to Mark Potter in a moment.
First though, our legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin to take us through what we anticipate today -- good morning to you.


HEMMER: All this is about what?

TOOBIN: Bail. There was a dispute about bail. When they were arrested -- the usual rule is, you have to stay in the jurisdiction where you were granted bail. They were in Florida, of course. They went home to Arizona, apparently to go into rehab, start to get their lives together again.

There was some confusion between the defense attorney and the judge about whether they had permission to do that. I don't think it is going to amount to great deal because it is obvious they weren't fleeing anywhere. Everybody knew where they were, but it was not a -- it was not a situation where they were trying to jump bail.

HEMMER: The point is the judge gets them back in court and says, listen, this is the jurisdiction. You have to stay here.

TOOBIN: Or get permission to leave, which they did not not exclusively do.

HEMMER: So they get rehab in Arizona. Does that help their case?

TOOBIN: It does if it's ending in a guilty plea, which this seems destined to do. In fact, everybody talking about the case has suggested that it will end that way, because defense attorneys, particularly in cases involving any sort of alcohol, go to the judge and say, Look, our clients have already started to go get help. They're in programs. They are not denying that they did something wrong, but they are trying to turn their lives around. That's why people go into rehab before, even, a case is over.

HEMMER: Why do you think that the prosecution is so dead set on a plea in this case? There's a lot of evidence here. You have got a bar bill, you have breathalyzer tests. You have numerous witnesses at the airport.

TOOBIN: Based on what we know, it looks like a complete slam dunk. There is not any doubt that these guys...

HEMMER: We've said that before.

TOOBIN: We have. That's true, but hey.

The reason they want to plea is just to get rid of the case, to -- you know, it's an automatic victory. Don't have to spend the money. It is always risk going to trial, as we know from slam dunks in the past, and this way you just get to control the case. Prosecutors like to keep control of cases. A guilt plea is best way to keep control.

HEMMER: Have you ever heard of case like this before?

TOOBIN: Actually, there has been one. I didn't know this. In 1990, Northwest Airlines, three pilots, one of whom had 15 rum and Cokes the night before. What happened was, he flew the next day, but he had gotten into a fight in the bar, and the person from the bar called and reported him when he landed In his next city he was arrested and got jail time.

HEMMER: So he flew possibly over the legal limit...

TOOBIN: Undoubtedly over the legal limit, because he was tested once he landed.

HEMMER: Right. The reason I say "possibly" is because there was a long time here between these pilots in Florida and when they actually flew. They paid the bar bill, wasn't until four or five hours later they actually got inside the cockpit. Knowing that, though, they still, according to the breathalyzer were over the legal limit for the state and were twice the legal limit according to FAA regulations.

TOOBIN: Given how much they drank -- if you watch Leno and Letterman, this incident has been replayed night after night. The equivalent of 30 beers, one martini, and one hamburger. It's sort of a -- it is a very memorable night.

I know it's typical for you, Bill, but it's really -- for those who lead more staid existences, it's pretty -- it's an extraordinary night of drinking, and it is not surprising they were still drunk four hours later.

HEMMER: Want to go flying?

TOOBIN: Hey, I'm ready -- not with you.

HEMMER: Hang on one second, Mark Potter is outside the courtroom right now -- Mark, what happened in terms of a trial date, and what more on the judge had to say in that short appearance today, good morning.


HEMMER: I can hear you just fine Mark. Bill Hemmer in New York. Go ahead, pal. What do you have?

OK. We are going to try and establish -- Mark, give me a thumbs- up when you got us here. Bill Hemmer in New York. I know Mark Potter is outside the courtroom there, a short appearance today for these two pilots.

What happened, pal -- good morning.

POTTER: Good morning, Bill. Sorry about the technical problems here, high tech (AUDIO GAP) (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

HEMMER: Told you we were cursed today. We lost his audio and the picture as well. Mark, we will try and reestablish that again -- here you are. Go ahead again. Number four...

POTTER: Can you hear me OK, Bill?

HEMMER: I sure can. Fire away.

POTTER: Sorry about that. We have got a bad rain out here, and maybe that is having an impact on our technical capabilities. We had a very short hearing, and it was rather dramatic. The judge, David Young, sort of fired back at the defense and at the two pilots who had asked that they be able to leave the jurisdiction, and to travel to the states of Missouri and Texas while they await their trial and the judge said no go.

You can go to Arizona, he said, but that's it. No more travel to any other places. He really wanted to crack down on that. He took away their passports and he said, You are to be here for every appearance. You're not to drink alcohol. He really laid down the law and showed who is boss in this case.

It is not the defense attorneys, it's not the prosecutors who had said they would agree to that, allowing them to travel. The judge said he didn't agree, and he laid down some very strict conditions, and so we go now toward a trial date of October 21 with the pilots required to be here for every pretrial appearance, and they're going to be here on that trial date, and they are not going anywhere beyond their homes in Arizona. The judge, again, has laid down the law.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as them traveling, we have no problem with that, with your Honor's blessing.

DAVID YOUNG, CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE: The court has some problems with it. We have two individuals charged with very serious crimes, and they have to understand there's some consequences to their actions. Simply being able to go back to Arizona, which I have a problem with, quite frankly. The state doesn't have problem with it, so I'm not going to intercede.

But the fact of the matter is that I don't want them flying to Missouri and to Texas and to going to a show in Texas or going, taking care of family matters in Missouri. That's not appropriate. What the court feels most comfortable with is having them stay in Miami pending trial, but since you have no problem with them going to Arizona, they can stay in Arizona, but they're are not flying around.

They are not going to go to Texas, and they are not going to go to Missouri. They're staying in Arizona, and they are calling in once a week from Arizona so they can -- we can verify that, in fact, they are where they should be.


POTTER: So the judge has spoken and very clearly. If the men are convicted, they can face up to six years in prison. The defense attorneys have said that they might consider a plea bargain in this case, but of course, that depends on down the road on what the prosecutors have to offer, and we will have to see. That process has not begun yet. Again, to point out, the trial date has now been set here in Miami for October 21 -- Bill.

HEMMER: Thanks for hanging in there. Two and a half months away. Mark Potter, thanks again in Southern Florida.

Quickly to Jeffrey Toobin -- what the chance of a judge making an example out of these two pilots in a case like this?

TOOBIN: It's high. This crime has a great resonance for all of us who fly on airplanes, and, you know, this is a serious thing. I think any sort of plea bargain is going to have to involve jail time, as did that 1990 case in Northwest Airlines. That pilot went to jail for a while, too.

HEMMER: We'll track it. Thank you, pal. Good seeing you.

TOOBIN: Good to see you.




Back to the top