Man accused of slapping Mpls. toddler on plane charged with assault

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A man accused of slapping an 19-month-old boy on a Delta Airline flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta last week has been charged with simple assault, ABC News reports.

Jessica Bennett, 33, from Minneapolis, told officials that Joe Rickey Handley, of Hayden, Idaho, was sitting next them on the flight on Feb. 8.

According to a federal affidavit, FBI special agent Daron Cheney said Handley, 60, slapped the boy during the flight.

Bennett said her son, identified by the website The Smoking Gun as Jonah, was crying as the plane was in its final descent to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and that Handley slapped him in the face and caused a scratch under his eye.

Bennett also accused Handley of using a racial epithet as he demanded she quiet her son, saying he cried louder after the man slapped him.

In the affidavit, Cheney said Handley used the N-word in telling her to "shut that (racial slur) baby up." A witness in the affidavit corroborates Bennett's story.

According to The Smoking Gun, Handley denied slapping the toddler and using a racial slur, but did say he asked the Bennett to "quiet the child."

Handley also reportedly said he was "distraught" during the flight because he traveling to Atlanta to visit a hospitalized relative, and admits to having one alcoholic drink.

Bennett, however, told The Smoking Gun that she believed Handley was intoxicated and "reeked of alcohol" when he boarded the plane.

Handley's attorney, who is based in Atlanta, says her client will plead not guilty, ABC News reports.

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