An Orange County man was charged in a federal criminal complaint that alleges he punched a flight attendant in the back of the head during a flight from Mexico to Los Angeles – an assault that a fellow passenger recorded on video.
Alexander Tung Cuu Le, 33, of Westminster, is charged with one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants, a crime that carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Le is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, on September 21, Le flew on American Airlines flight 377 from San José del Cabo, Mexico to Los Angeles International Airport. Approximately 20 minutes after takeoff, Le exited his seat while flight attendants were conducting food and beverage service. Le grabbed one flight attendant’s left shoulder from behind and asked for coffee. Moments later, Le grabbed both of the flight attendant’s shoulders from behind. After the flight attendant stepped back and put up a defensive posture, Le walked to the front of the airplane.
Le then allegedly loitered near the first-class cabin and then sat in an unoccupied aisle near the wall dividing the first-class cabin and the main cabin of the aircraft. A different flight attendant approached Le and requested that Le return to his assigned seat. Le did not comply and allegedly stood up and assumed a fighting stance towards the flight attendant by making closed fists with both of his hands, which the flight attendant interpreted as a threat.
Around this time, Le allegedly swung his arm at the flight attendant and missed. The flight attendant decided to report Le’s behavior to the pilot, turned away from Le and walked towards the front of the airplane. At this time, Le rushed toward the flight attendant and punched him in the back of the head, which was witnessed by several passengers, including one who filmed the attack, according to the affidavit.
After assaulting the flight attendant, Le fled toward the back of the airplane. Several passengers apprehended Le near an exit row. Out of safety concerns, Le was moved to a different row, and his hands and legs were cuffed. Le continuously unbuckled his seatbelt, causing flight attendants to restrain him to the seat with seatbelt extenders.
A complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The FBI is investigating this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Kellye Ng-McCullough of the General Crimes Section is prosecuting this case.