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Boisterous airline passenger fined $3,000, ordered to pay restitution

A former French journalist and television producer who caused a disturbance on a trans-Atlantic flight when he was asked to stop smoking was fined $3,000, ordered to pay $2,900 in restitution and placed on probation for a year.

The sentence was imposed Monday on Lionel Rotcajg, 48, by U.S. District Judge George O'Toole.Rotcajg became noisy and unruly when he was told to put out his cigarette on a Paris-to-Miami flight in April 1996. The pilot of the American Airlines jet made an emergency landing at the nearest airport - Logan - and turned Rotcajg over to the FBI.

Under a plea bargain agreement, Rotcajg pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight crew.

According to a FBI affidavit the incident began over the Atlantic, when Rotcajg began smoking in the aisle in the back of the plane. A flight attendant asked him to stop.

When Rotcajg refused to put out the cigarette, a flight attendant said she would inform the captain.

Rotcajg allegedly gestured as if he held a gun and said, "You do that and I'll shoot you down." Then he allegedly handed her the lit cigarette and shoved her as he walked away.

When the flight attendant reported the incident to the captain, he told her to tell Rotcajg he was forbidden from further smoking on the flight.

But when the attendant knelt by Rotcajg and spoke to him in a low tone, she said in a report, "He went berserk. He screamed at the top of his lungs, `Don't threaten me' over and over."