Joe Rickey Hundley, the white man who slapped a Black baby on a Delta Airlines flight and called him a n**ger, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Wednesday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Hundley’s attorney, Marcia Shein, says that while her client admits to calling the baby, Jonah, the racial slur, he was not well when he did it. Shein claims that Hundley had been up for 24 hours before the altercation and was traveling to Atlanta to take his only child off of life support after his son overdosed on insulin.
(Hundley initially denied calling the boy the slur.)
“He was grieving and very upset,” Shein said. “That’s why we’re going to trial.”
But others, like the toddler’s mother, believe that the trial is taking place because several witnesses saw Hundley assault her son.
Jessica Bennett, told investigators Hundley told her to “to shut that (racial slur) baby up” before he slapped the 19-month-old on the face.
“He reeked of alcohol,” Bennett told KARE-TV. “He was belligerent, and I was uncomfortable.”
“And I said, ‘What did you say?’ because I couldn’t believe that he would say that,” she told WCCO-TV. “He fell onto my face and his mouth was in my ear and he said it again but even more hateful. And he’s on my face, so I pushed him away.”
Hundley was arrested following the incident and charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor. He was later released after posting $10,000 bond.
His company, Unitech Composites and Structures, of which he was president, fired him following news of the allegations.
If convicted of hitting the toddler, Hundley could face up to one year in prison and be ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
His next court appearance is scheduled for April 9, according to The Journal-Constitution; a tentative trial date was set for May 13.