Man Escorted Off Flight to Honolulu Says He Was Chasing a Butterfly
A man who was escorted off his flight gave a bizarre reasoning for his behavior: a butterfly.
Turkish resident Anil Uskanli, 25, pled guilty on Tuesday to interfering with flight crew on his plane to Honolulu from Los Angeles. He said that the incident arose because he saw a butterfly pop out of the seat pocket in front of him and he was chasing it through the cabin.
“The butterfly went crazy... flew into the toilet," he said in Honolulu federal court, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I followed it. I tried to kill it by punching it.”
Uskanli added that he has since realized he must have been ill at the time, and was hallucinating the entire incident.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady, Uskanli walked to the front of the plane with a blanket wrapped around his head and carrying a laptop. Crew members suspected he might have explosives due to this behavior.
An off-duty officer who happened to be on the flight then supervised Uskanli back at his seat until landing. The Hawaii National Guard sent two fighter jets to escort the plane to Honolulu while he secretary of Homeland Security was briefed on the situation.
Uskanli purchased a ticket at the airline counter with no luggage and reportedly caused a scene before even getting on the flight. Police said his breath smelled of alcohol as he was arrested before boarding for opening a door to a restricted airfield, but he was not drunk enough to be charged with public intoxication. He was given a citation and then released.
Uskanli was in the U.S. on a student visa, but it has since been revoked since he was not attending school. His immigration lawyer Gary Singh says Uskanli intends to return to Turkey in order to get help for his illness, since he also faces deportation.
Uskanli faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Prosecutors don't expect to ask for more time than what Uskanli has already served, according to the Chicago Tribune.