Feds Seek To Drop Charges Against 2 San Diego Soccer Players In Flight Disturbance
Federal prosecutors have recommended dropping charges against two of the six San Diego soccer players who were accused of disrupting a Chicago-bound flight late last month, forcing it to make an emergency landing in Texas.
According to court documents obtained by KVII-TV, prosecutors recommended dropping charges against 21-year-old Ghazwan Asaad Shaba and 19-year-old Saiman Hermez.
The other four men facing charges are 20-year-old Jonathan Khalid Petras, 20-year-old Essa Solaga, 19-year-old Khalid Yohana and 23-year-old Wisam Imad Shaker.
The men, part of the San Diego Chaldean Soccer League, were flying from San Diego to Chicago on the night of Aug. 31. They were headed to the Assyrian American National Convention in Chicago. While aboard Southwest Flight No. 1522, the airline claims they began acting in a disorderly manner.
The pilots were forced to stop at Rick Husband International Airport in Amarillo, TX, where the men were detained and charged with one federal count each of interference with a flight crew and aiding and abetting. Six more members of the soccer team were also aboard the plane but were not arrested.
According to Southwest Airlines, the suspects were being "disorderly, and subsequently, refused to obey the instructions of the crew."
Prosecutors said the men refused to put their seat backs and tray tables up when asked and used profanity when a flight attendant was taking drink orders. When a flight attendant asked them to quiet down, they responded that they could be as loud as they want. When the men were denied alcohol, they “became aggressive by lunging forward at a flight attendant.”
At a preliminary hearing a few days after the incident, a judge granted their release from jail on $10,000 bail and allowed them to return home from San Diego, but refused to drop the charges. The men then drove back to Southern California.
Mark Arabo, president of the Neighborhood Market Association, a prominent leader in the San Diego Chaldean community and a spokesperson for the men, told 10News earlier this month that they are questioning Southwest’s account of the events and are considering filing a lawsuit against Southwest.
“They acted irresponsibly, but the actions taken by Southwest Airlines were shameful,” Arabo said in a statement. “After discussion with passengers, as well as the young men in question, we are beginning to receive a much fuller image as to what happened. There are blatant discrepancies in the story by Southwest Airlines. The response by Southwest indicates a culture of intolerance within the airline. And after consideration of the incident, we are currently looking at the possibility of a joint lawsuit.”
The date for the next court hearing was not immediately confirmed.