Air exec denies ‘nut rage’ charges

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Published: Monday 19th January 2015 by The News Editor

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The former Korean Air executive famous for an inflight tantrum over macadamia nuts has pleaded not guilty to violating aviation safety law and other charges.

Lawyers for Cho Hyun-ah did not dispute the major elements of the prosecutor’s account of events on December 5 when Cho’s behaviour resulted in a Korean Air jet returning to the gate. Instead they are focusing on a technical rebuttal of the aviation law charge.

Cho spend most of the first day of her trial today with her head lowered and hair covering her face. She declined to make any comments when invited to by the judge.

Cho achieved worldwide notoriety by kicking a crew member off the flight on December 5 after being offered macadamia nuts in a bag, instead of on a dish.

At the time, Cho was head of cabin service at the airline.

Her behaviour caused uproar in South Korea and the airline’s defence of her and its attempt to blame a crew member prompted more criticism. The incident touched a nerve in a country where the economy is dominated by family-run conglomerates known as chaebol which often act above the law.

Cho has been in police custody since December 30 and could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of all four charges against her.

Prosecutors accused her of forcing a flight to change its route, which was the most serious charge with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The three other charges she faces are the use of violence against flight crew, hindering a government probe and forcing the flight’s purser off the plane.

Cho’s lawyer, Yu Seung-nam, told the court that the December 5 flight had moved only 55ft (17m) from the gate at New York’s John F Kennedy airport before it returned, which did not amount to a forced change of an aviation route.

Published: Monday 19th January 2015 by The News Editor

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