The man accused of slapping a Minneapolis toddler on a Delta flight bound for Atlanta last month pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Joe Rickey Hundley, 60, of Hayden, Idaho is charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor.
According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, 33-year-old Jessica Bennett of Minneapolis told authorities her 19-month-old son, Jonah, was crying as the plane came in for landing on Feb. 8. Hundley was sitting next to her and hit the boy, leaving a scratch under his eye.
Before the assault, the mother claims Hundley used the “N-word” as he demanded she quiet the boy.
Hundley's attorney, Marcia Shein, told the newspaper that Hundley was traveling to Atlanta to take his only child off life support after his son overdosed on insulin.
"He was grieving and very upset,” Shein said. “That’s why we’re going to trial.”
Shein said Hundley admitted to making a racial statement.
If convicted of hitting the toddler, Hundley could face up to one year in prison and be ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.