U.S. man gets eight months in prison for hitting child on plane

ATLANTA Mon Jan 6, 2014 1:39pm EST

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ATLANTA Jan 6 (Reuters) - A former aerospace executive who slapped a crying toddler on an airplane and used a racial slur against the child, who is black, received an eight-month prison sentence on Monday for an incident his attorney blamed on his alcoholism.

Joe Rickey Hundley, who apologized in court to the child's mother, was accused of striking the 19-month-old boy in the face on board a Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta last February.

Hundley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in October. Prosecutors had sought a six-month prison sentence, but the federal judge opted for a stiffer punishment.

"I'm very sorry," Hundley told the child's mother during the court hearing in Atlanta. "I made the most terrible day in my life much worse for myself and others."

Hundley's attorney has said her client had flown to Atlanta to remove his dying son from life support after an insulin overdose and was emotionally distraught. She also blamed his alcoholism for his behavior on the flight.

The child's mother previously said Hundley was belligerent and seemed intoxicated during the flight. He used a racial slur when the child started crying as the plane descended.

The baby is black and his adoptive mother, Jessica Bennett of Minneapolis, is white. Hundley also is white.

Hundley was fired from his executive position at AGC Aerospace & Defense after the slapping incident, his attorney said. (Reporting by David Beasley; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)

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