May 6, 2009, 10:47 AM ET
Artist Allegedly Swigged Hand Soap, Tried to Bite United Flight Attendant
By Matt Phillips
Wow. It’s been a while since a tale of poor passenger behavior grabbed our attention as much as this one.
The Chicago Tribune’s Julie Johnsson reports:
United Airlines diverted a recent flight bound for London after an incoherent and disruptive passenger, apparently woozy from a combination of pills, alcohol and lavatory hand soap, allegedly tried to bite a flight attendant in the leg.
Galina Rusanova, a British citizen, was charged with interference with a flight crew and assault for allegedly disrupting United Flight 934 from Los Angeles to London Heathrow Airport on April 29, forcing the plane to land in Maine.
She could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In a Monday hearing in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Maine, Rusanova agreed to be detained pending trial.
Rusanova is described by the British press as a Russian-born artist, actress and author who rubs elbows with the rich and famous. She was returning home to the United Kingdom after traveling to California to visit a man she had met over the Internet, according to court documents.
“What wasn’t disclosed through the affidavit is that Ms. Rusanova is a very intelligent, charming woman,” said her attorney, Matthew Erickson. “This comes as a shock to her.”
Erickson added: “Her mistake was to mix prescription drugs with alcohol. After that, all bets were off.”
Of course the detail of this episode that really stands out is the hand soap. According to court documents filed May 1, a flight attendant approached Rusanova after passengers said the artist was being disruptive, “at which time she observed her drink a bottle of liquid soap that she had apparently removed from the bathroom.”
An affidavit also cites a written statement from a flight crew member “in which she reports that at one point while Rusanova was in the galley, she fell to the ground and began ’snapping like a dog’ and trying to bite flight crew member Donoho’s leg.”
Johnsson reports that while Rusanova could face a long stint in jail, guidelines for sentencing in cases like hers suggest jail terms ranging from time served to about six months, according to the artist’s lawyer.