Should grief about dying son excuse slapping toddler? Are AA, anger management, probation enough?

The AJC is reporting that the man accused of slapping a toddler on a Delta Air Lines flight early this year pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

Here’s the story from The AJC (I bolded the parts I want to discuss):

“Joe Rickey Hundley agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in which he could serve up to six months in federal prison, instead of a maximum one-year term he would have faced if he had gone to trial and lost.

“Hundley, 61, and his attorney acknowledged that alcohol may have been a factor in his actions on Feb. 8, but both gave more weight to the fact that Hundley’s son was about to die.

“I discussed the issues over grief … in AA meetings I’ve been going to since February,” Hundley said when U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman asked whether he’d been to counseling since the incident.

“Hundley was arrested after allegedly striking a 19-month-old baby during a flight from Minneapolis to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, prosecutors said.

“Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzette Smikle said Hundley was seated on the row with Jessica Bennett, whose 19-month-old son stood in the rear of the plane during much of the flight.

“But as the flight descended into Atlanta that evening, the little boy likely became irritated by the change in altitude and began crying, prosecutors said.

“Smikle said Hundley used a racial slur when he addressed Bennett about the crying child.

“Ms. Bennett said, ‘What did you say?’ ” Smikle told the court. “Mr. Hundley leaned over and fell against the face of Ms. Bennett.”

“Bennett told authorities after the flight that Hundley told her to “shut that (racial slur) baby up,” then slapped the child in the face with an open hand, leaving a scratch beneath the toddler’s eye, according to a federal affidavit.

“He appeared to be intoxicated at the time,” Smikle said Wednesday in court.

“Hundley initially pleaded not guilty, and was due to fight the charge in a trial set to begin Thursday.

“But his attorney Marcia Shein said he decided on Tuesday to enter a guilty plea.

“He couldn’t take it anymore,” Shein said after the plea hearing.

“She said he was traveling to Atlanta that February evening after having been awake for 24 hours straight to have his adult son, who was lying brain-dead in a metro hospital, taken off life support.

“Hundley’s son, Shein said, had intentionally taken an overdose of insulin, and died shortly after that.

“He lost a child,” she said of the elder Hundley. “And to hear a child scream … he lost it. He was up for 24 hours determining whether to unplug his son.”

“Shein said her client admits drinking during the flight.

“Certainly, he’d had at least one cocktail and he lost his cool,” she said. “He shouldn’t have, obviously, and that’s what he’s paying the price for.”

“An executive for an aviation company in Idaho, Hundley was fired from his job amid the media attention to the allegations. And he hasn’t worked full-time since, he said in court.

“The plea agreement requires him to seek drug or alcohol treatment and undergo anger-management counseling.

“I’ve already enrolled in” an anger management program “and am seeking approval of the government,” Hundley told Baverman in court.

“We would ask for probation,” Shein said. “He’s already lost his son and his job.”

“Shein said although her client admitted guilt, neither she nor Hundley agreed completely with the allegations.

“The racial slur was not the basis for the injury to the child,” she told Baverman.

“Prosecutors said Bennett will probably be in court and testify on Jan. 6 when Hundley returns for a sentencing hearing.”

So it will be very interesting to see what type of sentence he gets from the judge in January. He’s lost his job and he’s making changes in his life so in theory that type of incident shouldn’t happen again. So is that enough? Should he got to jail for slapping the baby? How does the son dying play into his actions? Is probation appropriate?

69 comments Add your comment

Bill Jonson

October 2nd, 2013
9:39 pm

No, he should not go to jail, he belong in prison, I don,t give a dam about his lame excuse, nothing justify his actions of striking a baby who is not responsible for his problems, I hope the Judge have the balls to sentence this thug to the maximum allowed, and then I hope the parent sue his ass for everything he got, we can,t let people go around striking babies in the face just because they are upset with life, and besides he,s a bigot.

wes

October 2nd, 2013
9:47 pm

How much restraint or fear is required not to retaliate against someone

A. Telling you to shut your n*gg*r baby up..
B. Physically slapping your baby or otherwise intending physical harm.

This lady was either terrified of him or more docile than ghandi. P.S.A do not repeeat the actions of this guy, I don’t have faith that most of humabity would respond as peacefully.

Teach this guy a lesson. That was uncalled for.

DB

October 2nd, 2013
9:52 pm

I’d be inclined to cut the guy some slack. I can’t imagine the pain he must have been in, facing losing a child. He’s taking the necessary steps to learn how to deal with his drinking and his reactions. He’s lost his son and his life is in shambles. I’m not sure what jail time would contribute. Of course, if I was the toddler’s mom, I might feel differently.

wes

October 2nd, 2013
9:57 pm

What does jail time contribute to non violent drug offenders or other petty crimes? Nothing but punishment. How do you let this skate and over crowd prisons for victimless crimes?

slim

October 2nd, 2013
10:08 pm

wes – While I agree with your point about non-violent drug offenders committing victimless crimes, in this case, the crime definitely had multiple victims – a baby and mother. I don’t think that his emotional state is enough of an excuse, though I would definitely consider it if I were the judge. My opinion: give him a week or so in jail, to show him that his behavior was unacceptable, and to leave it on his record.

Biggie

October 2nd, 2013
10:52 pm

he should go to jail, stupid prejudice mule. I wish he would slap my child, it would be on

Pat

October 2nd, 2013
11:31 pm

I’d like to give the guy a medal. Seriously, what is worse than being stuck on a plane with a screaming brat? If parents disciplined their own children, strangers wouldn’t have to.

Herman Huebenthal

October 2nd, 2013
11:36 pm

It is very understandable how this man felt after losing his son. But instead of remembering a simple prayer the “Serenity Prayer”: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.He would have not been in the trouble he is in now. Please take heart and remember your promise to God.

HB

October 3rd, 2013
12:08 am

He should serve a few weeks in jail for this violent act. He assaulted a completely defenseless person. His grief and enrollment in counseling should be considered and reduce the length of his sentence, but should not entirely replace jail time.

Troublesome

October 3rd, 2013
12:12 am

He should do the max prison term and them some more because he is a racist bigot and a adult who should know better, I don’t care if alcohol and grief was a factor because it is no excuse to harm a defenseless 19 month old child who was there by no choice of his/her own and is not cognitively aware of the discomfort he/she was feeling due to the pressure change to to descent. If it was, I could say the same thing if I was caught for drinking and driving and hit someone and caused them bodily harm – It’s not fault because of….. Also, some people on this post don’t understand that he is a 61 year old adult who is much larger than the child – thank god he only slapped the child and not delivered a full blown punch to the babies face. And another thing, to take a idea from “A Time to Kill” What if the baby was white and the offender was Black – how would things played out? He is damn lucky he will only get 6 months of jail max for this and he deserved to lose his job because he is flat out idiot who wanted to plead not guilty for a blatantly cowardly act. He only changed his plea because his lawyer told him so – the lawyer knew he could never win a non guilty plea from a jury.

P.S. I can also relate to what Pat said because once I was on a international flight that took 11 hours to get to my destination and I was seated in front of a couple with an baby and tthat kept crying the whole flight; which was not the worst of it because the child behind me kept kicking my seat the whole flight and the parents did nothing about it. I did not lose my cool (and by this point I’ve had about six beers) I just put my head on my fold down tray and kept telling myself that this flight will not last forever and it would end at some point and the child did not really know about what he was doing – but this was not the case. “But as the flight descended into Atlanta that evening, the little boy likely became irritated by the change in altitude and began crying, prosecutors said.

Seventh Scent of a Wayward Tire.

October 3rd, 2013
6:08 am

Well, AA is a joke. It is a religious based program, so anyone that does not believe in god can feel left out. I think if you are smart enough to not believe in a mythical being that does all good(except protect church buses), then you are likely to think AA will do good.

The real problem with AA is it fails to address alcoholism as a behavior disorder. When treated as a behavior disorder, long term results are better then sitting in a church on a Tuesday night wanting others to feel sorry for you,

USC-69

October 3rd, 2013
6:09 am

Yes – Mr. Hundley’s son apparently committed suicide and he was distraught, needing to remove life-support. But – slapping a baby, anyone, on the head can be fatal or lead to permanent brain damage. I think the punishment – loss of employment, attention to alcoholism, and 6 months in a federal prison is appropriate. The racist comment suggests to me that this is also a “hate” crime and education and counseling regarding Mr. Hundley’s lack of education and preparation for participation in a complex society would also be appropriate.

My name is Bill W

October 3rd, 2013
6:11 am

^^^^^^
They’re right!

Maude

October 3rd, 2013
6:16 am

If the mother had taken steps to quieten her disruptive child this would not have happened. Today parents do not realize that the whole world does not think their child all that. Yes, I raised 3 children and helping raise 3 grand children. Even children as young a 18 months should be taught that they cannot act a fool and get by with it. This man was wrong but so was the mother.

shaggy

October 3rd, 2013
6:19 am

Wow Theresa, you got some really intelligent and well worded posts to this one, some true “roads” scholars.
I’ll bet that some of the “visitors” can even construct a complete sentence like, “See spot run.”

As for the case itself, the guy is toast anyway. No job, unemployable, son killed himself, probably has death threats. He will probably end up living in a box under a bridge with wes, Biggie, and Bill Johnson.

motherjanegoose

October 3rd, 2013
7:01 am

@shaggy…and one of the new guests makes complaints about me too! What is not to like?

Sometimes life stinks. This does not mean you can physically abuse others. Not sure a full blown prison term is acceptable. A few weeks might make and impression.

We once boarded a flight near a lady with two children under five. She had nothing to entertain them. No toys, goody bags, trinkets, books etc. She did order two drinks to entertain herself. REALLY? With two children in tow? Some parents are not thinking of the other passengers…that is for sure.

We flew when ours were small but did our best not to schedule during times they would be cranky or sick. It is hard enough corraling a two year old on a good day much less on a long day of flying and having them strapped in a seat.

I am proud to report that I corraled FIFTY two year olds last week when I shared a thirty minute program at a preschool in Florida. No small feat and I even wondered if I could do it. They sat and watched me the entire time. I have been invited back but not sure I am up to it with two year olds :).

Regarding parents who think the world revolves around their child…we have friends who Facebook post things their darling says…all the time. Guess what…I meet lots of kids who say hilarious things. He is a cute enough kid but certainly not the ONLY cute kid. Lots of them tell me funny things. That is for sure!

catlady

October 3rd, 2013
7:02 am

I think this man has suffered enough. He brought shame on himself. He lost his job. He has taken steps to control himself. Let it be.

Me

October 3rd, 2013
7:11 am

@shaggy, you are absolutely correct. I don’t recall, in recent memory, such a display of comments displaying basically no abilities to spell, construct sentences, and formulate paragraphs! Geez.
Back on topic, I don’t feel the reasons for his actions to technically and by law figure in to any sentencing. “Why” somone commits a crime doesn’t alter the “innocent or guilty” aspect. I don’t feel those receiving lighter sentences because they “are less fortunate or didn’t have the proper home life” to be an excuse either. What he did was inappropriate and should not have occurred. The “why” he did it – while I understand his frustrations to a degree – do not provide an acceptable excuse.
And the crying babies, disruptive children, and other obnoxious people in general is why we never fly in coach. Sure, it costs more if/when we aren’t automatically upgraded, but it’s well worth it and, while not totally a “save haven”, the odds are much more in our favor.

motocross survivor

October 3rd, 2013
7:13 am

Black kids get a lot more than slapped on a regular basis at home. How often do their keepers go to jail for it? This is mostly anti-white racism.

Me

October 3rd, 2013
7:16 am

Argh — Grammar police alert — I used the term “save haven” instead of the proper “safe haven” in my last post.

Johnny Too Good

October 3rd, 2013
7:25 am

Take race outta it. You be the parent, there holding your child(a toddler, chances are she was trying to quiet the child) and some fool assaults them? Amen to the woman for the restraint. Smh that old guy is lucky to be alive.

motherjanegoose

October 3rd, 2013
7:42 am

@ me…I was in 1st class to Dallas TX and a two year old was running up and down the aisles. The other passengers were not impressed. Hard to get and works done with all the hullaballo ( sp/). Mom, Dad and the two year old each had their own seat. The two year old was not using hers. I would not be happy if I had paid $500.00 or more for that seat. I got an upgrade and was still perturbed.

FCM

October 3rd, 2013
7:42 am

Grief does not excuse what he did. It does however factor in to it. I am with DB on this, I am inclined to cut him slack. This man acted in the “heat of the moment” but is unlikely to continue to behave this way. His going to jail or not would not preclude the family of the child from suing, if they choose too. If I were the judge I would ban him from public transportation, require him to attend therapy for the grief and alcoholism, and put him on probabtion for a term. Assuming he has no prior convictions.

motherjanegoose

October 3rd, 2013
7:43 am

oops…any work done….

Mayhem

October 3rd, 2013
7:55 am

We’ll if someone slapped my child I certainly wouldn’t make a federal case out of it. This man DOES NOT BELONG IN JAIL. That’s crazy. Out jails are so over crowded as it is, and locking someone up for a mere slap is insane.

This is a part of what is wrong with this country.

brk

October 3rd, 2013
8:00 am

the guy was stricken with grief & alcohol & instead of slapping the child, he should have slapped the parents for not trying to keep the child quite. too many children running around restaurants & other places disrupting people. heck I pay for my food & flight like they do so I have rights also. the world does not revolve around children even if folks think so

Blessed

October 3rd, 2013
8:10 am

He should go directly to jail.

cobbmom

October 3rd, 2013
8:29 am

The child began crying as the plane was descending, the change in air pressure caused pain in his ears, therefor he cried. With the regulations regarding liquids on planes it is difficult to have something in a sippy cup for a small child to drink during descent to help with the pressure change. I have NO tolerance for misbehaving children or their parents but in this case there was a medical reason for the crying.

Much has been said about the father’s grief, yet he was able to forget his son long enough to get drunk. Is there a hospital anywhere that is going to allow an inebriated person to make a life or death medical decision? If one of my children was seriously ill the last thing I would want would be alcohol. I want all my senses on alert to understand what the medical professionals are telling me.

He’s a racist idiot, but instead of prison put an ankle bracelet on him and let him pay the monthly monitoring fee.

motherjanegoose

October 3rd, 2013
8:39 am

@cobbmom….most all airplanes carry juices that the flight attendants are happy to put in a sippy cup. Not sure what this comment means…can you explain?

“With the regulations regarding liquids on planes it is difficult to have something in a sippy cup for a small child to drink during descent to help with the pressure change.”

You can also buy juice and take it on board, once you clear security. They do sell it in the airport, along with snacks and magazines.

Jaynie

October 3rd, 2013
8:54 am

I think it’s a poor excuse that he was drinking because his son was dying. If you cannot stay sober long enough to make a life and death decision on your own child ho could you possibly expect to get away with hitting someone else’s child. Children crys ometimes, get over it. The plane was on its final descent and the child had not been misbehaving for the entire flight. Personally if this man had struck one of my children or my grandchildren, I’m not sure I would have had the restraint not to hit him back. He deserves some jail time, maybe not six month, but some.

WitchyWoman

October 3rd, 2013
9:16 am

It seems that many of the posters are missing the part in the article where it states that the child started crying as the plane was making it’s final descent. Based on other news outlets, until then the child had been fine. He does deserve jail time. Yes, I do feel for him because his son had died or was dying, but it does not excuse his behavior. This story is especially interesting because although the child was black, the mother was white. I think she didn’t react initially because she was shocked at the racial slur and just stunned that he actually hit her child. What had if it been a smaller baby? Would he have hit it too? There is something inherently wrong when you think it is completely OK it hit another person’s child (drunk or not). Many of us think it… cause god knows some of these teenagers seem to need a good but whippin, but we would NEVER do it.

Speculation Alert:
Here is another question…If he was that drunk that he couldn’t control himself…How was he planning to leave after landing at the airport? I mean it was in handcuffs because of the incident, but did he plan on driving in that state? Him being arrested may have potentially saved a life.

WitchyWoman

October 3rd, 2013
9:18 am

sorry for any typos or poor grammar usage..I know some people look for it. ;)

ray

October 3rd, 2013
9:19 am

and if uttered those words and hit my child, i’d be the one needing a lawyer….

Denise

October 3rd, 2013
9:35 am

People get in trouble for slapping their OWN children so why is he getting a light sentence for slapping for someone else’s kid? This is some foolishness.

I do feel sympathy for him, however. Losing a child has to be the hardest thing a parent has to deal with.

BUT…that does not excuse his behavior; nor does it mean he should get a lighter sentence. There are a lot of “mitigating factors” that contribute to people committing crimes that are not considered when sentencing on a regular basis. Again, I think this is foolishness.

As for people who think in THIS situation the mother should have kept her baby quiet…have you never had your ears hurt on an airplane? I have and I’m 40. Being as I’m 40 I can keep myself from crying but I’m sure I couldn’t control responding to pain that well when I was a baby. But of course YOUR children are perfect and never cried for ANY reason, never made anyone uncomfortable EVER…ANYWHERE. Yeah right. Selective memories.

Real Life

October 3rd, 2013
9:39 am

Grief and alcohol are not excuses for slapping anyone regardless of age.

Sparta_Bubba

October 3rd, 2013
10:11 am

For those of you concerned about his well being, keep in mind he was President of the company so I’m sure he left with a golden parachute and probably spends his time in North Carolina on the golf course and other leisurely pursuits. Let’s not assume he was “standing his ground” and get away with a dastardly crime. A sixty-one year old man slapping a 19 month old child says a lot about this man’s temperment, character and his perception of his fellow beings. Six months of active jail time followed by 5 years of probation would make him think about his actions and possibly protect someone else from him.

Big_Black

October 3rd, 2013
10:24 am

Give that greasy bigot some time. And I hope the cons teach him how to “toss some salad” in da jernt.

DB

October 3rd, 2013
10:35 am

It’s not an excuse — but it is a reason. I think he had been drinking too much in order to numb the pain of dealing with his son’s impending death, and made some very poor choices. He’s unemployed and his son is gone. I don’t know how much worse his life could get. It sounds like they have plea-bargained six months, so he will probably spend at least a little time in jail. “Nothing else to see, here, folks — move along.”

BADA BING

October 3rd, 2013
10:43 am

1 He should not have been impaired by alcohol.
2 The mother should have controlled the child.
3 The flight attendant should have insisted that the mother control the child.
Had any or all of the above occurred, we wouldn’t be reading this story.

FCM

October 3rd, 2013
10:47 am

@ Denise: “People get in trouble for slapping their OWN children so why is he @ getting a light sentence for slapping for someone else’s kid?” Not saying he should not get in trouble. I don’t think people should be in trouble for slapping their own kid, huge difference in a slap and abuse. Slapping another person’s child should get you in trouble, the question is just what should the punishment be.

The law says to look at contributing factors. His grief and alcohol consumption were contributing factors. I know someone who argued with a tree for an hourimbibed a good bit. The tree apparently dared to get in his way when he was walking home.

BADA BING

October 3rd, 2013
11:00 am

Was the man a White Hispanic?

Lynn43

October 3rd, 2013
11:01 am

One thing I’ve noticed about todays young parents is that they don’ care how much their offspring bother other people. They seen to think their little darlings own the world. Yes, I raised three babies all close in age but I was always respectful of other people. I stayed home a lot or got sitters, drove instead of taking public transportation, took the babies to the nursery instead of making the entire congregation listen to them instead of the preacher, but parents today seem to think that everyone loves their child as much as they do. Surprise! They don’t. I lay all of this on the mom. She should have prepared for an undisciplined child or taken transportation so others would not be disturbed.

BehindEnemyLines

October 3rd, 2013
11:19 am

Maude

October 3rd, 2013
11:20 am

Lynn43 you so right!!!!!!!

WitchyWoman

October 3rd, 2013
12:48 pm

Once again, At no point in any article or news story did any of the passengers or even the man who slapped the child say that the child had been unruly the entire flight. In this case it looks like a case of little ears vs big pressure at the END of a flight. Many of you are assuming that the child MUST have been acting up the entire flight when it clearly states the child started to cry when the plane was descending. Yes there are some AWFUL parents out there who as one poster stated “think their little darlings own the world” but I don’t think that was the case here. It just looks like a drunk man who admittedly was going through some things decided to take his anger out on the one person who couldn’t fight back. I mean why hit the child and not the mother? Of course we shouldn’t hit anyone, but it says a lot that he chose the smallest person to hit.

Alternative View:
We are all feeling sorry for his loss of job and the loss of his son, when this guy could have been a complete jerk his entire life, even to his dying son. It is completely possible that he wasn’t grieving at all and just likes to drink. Of course the dying son is a good excuse when you act a fool and get arrested. Just saying.

Denise

October 3rd, 2013
2:01 pm

@WitchyWoman – I completely agree. TOTALLY. Nobody has said the baby was cutting up the whole flight. Also, you’re right; didn’t slap the adult that could fight back. He knew what could happen…some slow singing and flower bringing! LOL

He is a creep but I don’t wish anyone to bury a child. I do hope he makes some changes in his life as he grieves his child’s death and all his losses. I do think, though, that with such a light sentence some punitive damages should have been levied. If I’m the mom, a civil suit is on the way. I don’t usually agree with going after money but I NEVER agree with slapping a baby in the face. (FCM, I’m with you, though, that everyone should not get in trouble for smacking their kid on the butt as long it is not abusive.)

Finn McCool

October 3rd, 2013
2:37 pm

“I’ll bet that some of the “visitors””…

Yeah, great command of English there, bro.

Finn McCool

October 3rd, 2013
2:39 pm

They should tie him to lamp post in a public space and allow children to walk by and whack him with anything handy.

Count the morons in this room who think it is ok to slap a baby

October 3rd, 2013
3:15 pm

DB
October 2nd, 2013
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Cut some slack? How about you don’t put your frigging hands on a defenseless child?! I bet if the father was holding a baby that frigging coward would have not put his hands on anyone?!
_____________________________________________________________________________________
Pat
October 2nd, 2013
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
A medal, how about someone give me a medal for slapping your stupid f#$%ing azz! Please allow me to rear back and slap the fudge out of you for posting this garbage!
_____________________________________________________________________________________
catlady
October 3rd, 2013
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
So you telling me that someone can slap your child, and lose their job at hmmmmmm let’s say Burger king and you be ok with that? See above post about garbage and slapping you!
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BADA BING
October 3rd, 2013
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Controlled the child? Flight attendant control the child? WOW, is this room full of morons? How do you “control” a crying baby that is descending 20,000 feet and their ears are popping and they have no clue as to what’s going on? Think before you post moron!

Franklin

October 3rd, 2013
3:26 pm

The baby needed slapping, she was letting it stand in the rear of the plane. Spare the rod spoil the child. It wasn’t a baby, it was a two year old toddler. Parents need to control there kid. It probably cried because it didn’t want to sit back down and wanted to run around uncontrolled some more.