A Jamaican nurse who stormed the cockpit of an American Airlines flight as it was landing in Charlotte then attacked the crew has been turned over to immigration officials for possible deportation.
Charlene Sarieann Harriott, 36, pleaded guilty in May to misdemeanor assault within the “special aircraft jurisdiction” of the federal government. She was accused of “striking, beating or wounding” the crew of Flight 1033, which landed in Charlotte on Jan. 31. The crime carries a sentence of six months to a year.
At the time of her sentencing last week, Harriott had been held in the Mecklenburg County Jail since she was taken off the aircraft.
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According to court documents recently made public in the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler sentenced Harriott on Aug. 17 to time served, then ordered her released to the custody of immigration officials to face possible deportation.
Bryan Cox, a spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Wednesday that Harriott is now the subject of “removal proceedings” in immigration court.
Family and friends who wrote the court in Harriott’s behalf say the behavior described by the FBI and other authorities is totally out of character.
Fellow nurse and friend Shernet Griffiths described Harriott as a gifted nurse and one of the “most congenial, kind-hearted, friendly and caring person(s) I know.”
“Any behavior outside of this is unfathomable,” Griffiths wrote in one of more than a dozen supportive letters unsealed by the court.
Seven months ago, as Flight 1033 from Dallas-Fort Worth was about to touch down, Harriott left her seat in the back row of the aircraft and began running down the center aisle toward the front of the plane, an FBI affidavit says.
Three flight attendants stopped her in first class. She was restrained with duct tape and zip ties, the affidavit says.
Rather than succumb, Harriott became more aggressive, the affidavit says. She drew blood after biting one attendant on the forearm, punched another, and kicked the third in the leg and stomach. All three required medical attention before leaving the Charlotte airport.
Harriott, according to the court filings, is a registered nurse who worked at University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. She is described by friends and family as an accomplished singer, an active member of her Seventh Day Adventist church, even as a peacemaker by some.
“She has acknowledged her wrongdoing and understands the nature of the incident, which is very much unlike her character,” wrote her cousin, Stanley Fraser.
“I believe that she is determined to do right, and with the help of her family and friends, Charlene will be the law-abiding citizen that we all know her to be.”
Her mother, Lanzel Harriott, also of Jamaica, echoed similar sentiments.
“I miss her very much,” she said in her letter to the court. “Please send her home.”