DENVER—Marcus Covington, a Chicago resident, was arrested late Sunday night by the FBI on charges of interference with a flight crew, United States Attorney John Walsh and FBI Special Agent in Charge James Yacone announced today. Covington is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Denver this afternoon, where he will be advised of the charges pending against him, and the penalties associated with those charges.
According to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint charging Covington on August 19, 2012, Covington intimidated a flight crew member and a flight attendant on JetBlue Flight 677, an Airbus A-320, carrying approximately 150 passengers, which was flying from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Los Angeles International Airport.
Specifically, Covington was allegedly intoxicated, making some of his fellow passengers nervous because he was walking up to their seats and saying things to them that did not make sense. Passengers seated next to Covington asked to be reseated. At one point during the flight, Covington, while waiting to use the forward lavatory, groped a 27-year-old pregnant female. The female pushed him away and stood behind a flight attendant. Following this assault, Covington was asked by a flight attendant if he was going to be able to stay seated because he was making other passengers uncomfortable. Covington allegedly told the flight attendant to get away from him. Because of his intimidation, the flight attendant left the forward galley and was unable to perform her duties there.
As a result of his assaultive and intimidating behavior, an FBI special agent, who was traveling on the flight as a passenger, was asked by flight crew to assist in dealing with Covington. Following consultation with the FBI agent and the captain of JetBlue Flight 677, the captain decided to divert the flight to Denver International Airport. The FBI agent and another passenger sat next to Covington to keep him under control while the plane made this unscheduled landing. While seated, the agent noticed Covington taking a number of unidentifiable pills.
Upon the aircraft’s arrival at the gate, Covington was escorted off the plane in handcuffs. While Denver Police Department officers were attempting to get Covington to sit in a chair, he kicked at and spit on them while threatening to kill them.
If convicted, Covington faces not more than 20 years in federal prison for interference with flight crew members and attendants.
This case was investigated by the Denver Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Covington is being prosecuted by James Allison, Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado.
A criminal complaint is a probable cause charging document. Anyone accused of committing a federal felony crime has a constitutional right to be indicted by a grand jury.
The charges contained in the complaint are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Update: JetBlue Flight 677 passenger Marcus Covington, age 32 of Chicago, Illinois, appeared in U.S. District Court this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe. He was advised of the charges pending against him (interference with a flight crew), as well as his rights. He was then appointed a federal public defender. He is due back in court on Friday, August 24 at 2:00 p.m. for a detention hearing. That hearing will also take place before Magistrate Judge Watanabe. The hearing will be held at the Arraj Federal Courthouse, 901 19th Street, courtroom A-502.