LOS ANGELES (AP) — An Iranian man who allegedly threatened to "kill all Americans" when he was caught smoking on an international flight was ordered held without bail Friday after a prosecutor argued his actions threatened thousands of lives.
Two Air Force F-16 jets escorted the Boeing 767 back to Los Angeles International Airport less than an hour after the passenger jet had departed Thursday afternoon for Toronto. Authorities took Javid Naghani into custody.
Naghani was not only a threat to the 145 people aboard the Air Canada flight but to people on the ground in Los Angeles, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Rubinstein said in federal court.
Flight attendants told the captain "they were intimidated, fearful and unwilling to deal with Naghani, and that Naghani needed to be removed from the aircraft," FBI agent David Beall said.
Naghani was charged with one count of interfering with a flight crew. Judge Magistrate Jennifer Lum denied bail and set a preliminary hearing for Oct. 15.
Naghani's attorney, Richard Novak, argued for bail, saying his client is a successful businessman and property owner with strong ties to the community. He is a legal resident of the United States and has an office-cleaning business called Cleaning of America.
Novak also said Naghani has a drinking problem, which may have contributed to the confrontation.
Naghani's wife, Rose Hinojos, told a flight attendant her husband had been drinking wine before the confrontation. She told The Associated Press she did not see him smoking.
In arguing against bail, Rubinstein said Naghani had previous convictions for reckless driving in 1988 and possession of a dangerous weapon, a dagger, in 1995.
Naghani tried to interrupt the hearing at one point, telling the judge he was innocent. "I didn't say those words, I swear to my mother," he said.
Hinojos, who was questioned and released, said authorities mistreated her and her husband.
"I was handcuffed all over like I am a terrorist," she said. "This is not the way to treat residents. This is the United States. My husband and I are not terrorists.
"My husband is the kindest person I have ever met," Hinojos said.
A neighbor described Naghani on Friday as a boisterous chain smoker with a penchant for hard liquor and a "good heart."
Helene Apper, who has lived near Naghani for five years, said he was nervous about flying in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Apper suggested Naghani likely had too much to drink out of nervousness, but was not someone who would actually carry through on violent threats.
"He loved America and the freedoms it gave him," she said.