June 24, 2016 (AMARILLO, Texas) — Following an eight-day trial before U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater, a federal jury has convicted two men who were on a flight last year that was diverted to Amarillo on the felony offense of interference with a flight crew and aiding and abetting, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
The jury convicted Jonathan Khalid Petras, 21 and Wisam Imad Shaker, 23, residents of the San Diego area, on the charge that was outlined in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Amarillo in September 2015. Each defendant will remain on bond pending sentencing, which is set for November 14, 2016, before Judge Fitzwater. Each faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
Essa Solaqa, 21, and Khalid Yohana, 20, also residents of the San Diego area were acquitted.
At trial, the government presented evidence that on August 31, 2015, the defendants were aboard Southwest Airlines flight 1522, from San Diego to Chicago. During that flight, the defendants, who were sitting together in two adjacent rows, repeatedly failed to comply with safety instructions, were loud and disruptive, screamed profanities at flight attendants when they were denied alcohol, and some of the men lunged and made other aggressive movements toward the flight attendants.
The flight was diverted to Rick Husband International Airport in Amarillo so law enforcement could remove the defendants from the flight.
The FBI, the Amarillo Police Department and the Rick Husband International Airport Police investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joshua Frausto, Mark Penley, and Amy Burch are prosecuting the case.