NEW YORK -- A JetBlue flight attendant was suspended Tuesday after accusations that he cursed out a passenger over a plane's loudspeakers, grabbed some beer from the galley and exited on the emergency slide. The lawyer for the attendant, who has become an Internet sensation, said the rule-breaking passenger provoked him.
Steven Slater wore a slight smile Tuesday as he was led into a Queens courtroom to be arraigned on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing. The judge set his bail at $2,500, but it wasn't immediately clear when Slater might be able to post the money.
JetBlue Airways removed him from duty pending the investigation; the airline declined to comment on the specifics of the flight from Pittsburgh to Kennedy Airport.
Police and prosecutors said Slater, a 38-year-old airline industry veteran, lost his temper Monday afternoon after a dispute with a passenger, then fled the parked jet by deploying the emergency chute and walking across the tarmac to an unlocked door that led to the street.
At his arraignment, defense attorney Howard Turman said Slater was under stress because his mother has lung cancer. Afterward, he provided reporters with a different account of what happened aboard the aircraft than the version authorities initially offered.
Police had said Slater became angry when a passenger defied requests to stay seated, then accidentally hit him in the head with her luggage.
Turman said the dispute had begun earlier, as the flight was awaiting takeoff from Pittsburgh, when two female passengers got into an argument over space in the overhead bins. That's when Slater was struck in the head, Turman said.
After the plane landed in New York, one of the women who had been asked to gate-check her bag was enraged that it wasn't immediately available, Turman said.
''The woman was outraged and cursed him out a great deal,'' Turman said. ''At some point, I think he just wanted to avoid conflict with her.''