Ontario man who disrupted Toronto-bound Air Canada flight pleads guilty
Brandon Courneyea's admission carries maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $313,000 fine
An Ontario man who pleaded guilty in a case involving a dramatic disturbance on an Air Canada flight is now facing the prospect of up to two decades behind bars.
Brandon Courneyea's admission of interference with a flight attendant, entered last month in an Orlando, Fla., courtroom, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $313,000 fine.
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The charge related to Courneyea's conduct aboard an Air Canada flight that was bringing him home from a brief vacation in Jamaica in May.
"Defendant is pleading guilty because defendant is in fact guilty," reads the plea agreement filed in the case. "Were this case to go to trial, the United States would be able to prove those specific facts and others beyond a reasonable doubt."
Troubles began before flight
Courneyea's troubles began on May 15 shortly before boarding the Air Canada flight from Montego Bay to Toronto.
His wife previously told the Canadian Press her husband had taken a tropical vacation at her urging, but moved up his plans to return home after allegedly receiving death threats.
According to court documents, Courneyea took an undisclosed quantity of cocaine before getting on the plane.
Once on board, his plea agreement shows he quickly came to the attention of flight attendants when he began disrupting the flight.
The document said Courneyea yelled at people for looking at him, threw paper at one of his fellow passengers, and moved erratically through the aircraft without shoes on.
When flight crew tried to get him to return to his seat, the document said he went to the back of the plane and began swinging a hot coffee pot at passengers and crew.
Courneyea then tried to open the aircraft cabin door, telling those in his vicinity that "it would only take one guy to take the plane down and that he wanted to take everyone with him," according to his plea agreement.
Courneyea then seized another full coffee pot and went after staff before passengers and crew subdued him and bound him to his seat using zip ties, court documents said.
The flight was diverted to Orlando, where Courneyea was arrested and taken into custody.
'Not my husband at all'
Court documents show he spent several days in a hospital for undisclosed reasons before making his first appearance before a judge.
Court documents also indicate a Florida judge had agreed to release Courneyea on $156,000 bail and allow him to return to Canada in the weeks prior to his guilty plea, but that he remained in custody.
The judge noted that Courneyea, a drywaller living in Amherstview, Ont., was the father of five children, two with special needs, who Courneyea's wife is currently caring for alone.
Courneyea's wife declined to comment on the guilty plea, but had previously expressed shock at her husband's actions.
"That is not my husband at all," Amanda Courneyea said in the days after his arrest. "There's a lot more to what brought that on, because my husband is the kindest, most loving man you'll ever meet."
Florida-based lawyer Corey Cohen, who represents Courneyea, did not elaborate on why his client had remained in custody or the reasons behind the guilty plea.
Cohen said Courneyea's sentencing is currently set for Sept. 11.
Records show Courneyea brought a motion seeking to postpone the sentencing by a week because of the nature of the charges against him and the significance of the sentencing date. The motion was denied.