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Charlotte attorney arrested after allegedly becoming unruly while flying in first-class cabin

American Airlines flight 732 from Charlotte to London had made it to Nova Scotia when a passenger reportedly became unruly. The flight diverted to Philadelphia.
American Airlines flight 732 from Charlotte to London had made it to Nova Scotia when a passenger reportedly became unruly. The flight diverted to Philadelphia. FlightAware

A partner at a prominent Charlotte law firm flying first class to London was arrested after authorities said she became unruly and assaulted crew members.

Sarah Elizabeth Buffett, a partner at Nelson Mullins, needed to be physically restrained during her overnight Wednesday US Airways flight, according to a Department of Homeland Security agent. The flight had to be diverted to Philadelphia.

American Airlines Flight 732, operated by US Airways, from Charlotte to London Heathrow departed shortly after midnight and landed in Philadelphia at 4:33 a.m., said American Airlines spokeswoman Katie Cody. The Airbus, carrying 267 passengers, was forced to turn around in Nova Scotia and land in Philadelphia.

The flight was canceled and passengers were rerouted on alternate flights, Cody said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania filed a criminal complaint stating that Buffett became aggressive and damaged her seat before trying to break a window with a remote control. Passengers assisted flight attendants in restraining Buffett with plastic restraints, according to the complaint. It states she removed those restraints twice and had to be held down by a passenger. Then tape was wrapped around Buffet’s lower legs..

Buffett could not be reached for comment.

Buffett told investigators that she had three glasses of wine and a Zaleplon pill, used to treat insomnia, and does not remember the incident, the document states.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Zaleplon should not be taken with alcohol. It warns that some people who have taken this medication reported driving cars, eating food and making phone calls while partially asleep.

“After they woke up, these people were usually unable to remember what they had done,” it states.

Nelson Mullins issued a statement apologizing to passengers for any inconvenience and announcing Buffett’s suspension pending an investigation.

“The Firm does have an expectation of personal responsibility on the part of all of our partners,” Nelson Mullins said in the statement. “Nelson Mullins has and continues to expect the highest standards of professional behavior among all its employees.”

Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

Andrew Dunn: 704-358-5235, @andrew_dunn

Hayley Fowler: 704-358-5294, @h_fowl

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