NEW YORK — A US man who reportedly had served in Iraq and Afghanistan was charged Wednesday with making a false bomb threat on a Delta Airlines flight from Paris to the United States.
Derek Stansberry, 27, faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of interfering with the flight bound to Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday and five years for pretending that he had a bomb, the Department of Justice said.
“Making false bomb threats on an aircraft and interfering with the flight crew are serious crimes that have serious consequences,” said the US prosecutor for Maine, Paula Silsby.
The Delta flight made an unscheduled landing in Maine with officials initially saying only that a passenger had been “disruptive.”
US media reports said that Stansberry had served in the Air Force and was currently working for a private company contracted overseas by the government.
In a separate incident, a plane operated by Continental Airlines was diverted to North Carolina while flying to Washington on Wednesday after a threatening message was found on the bathroom mirror.
Local and federal law enforcement agents with bomb-sniffing dogs rushed aboard Continental Airlines flight 3006 when it landed at an airport near Greensboro, North Carolina, Wednesday at 10:43 am (1443 GMT).
In the Delta Airlines incident, prosecutors allege that Stansberry passed a note to the flight attendant saying he was not an American citizen and that his passport was fake, as well as a request stating: “Please let my family know the truth.”
After the flight attendant passed the note to an air marshal traveling aboard the plane, Stansberry was taken into custody.
He allegedly “told the air marshals that he had dynamite in his boots, which were located in his backpack, and that a pressure plate switch would detonate the dynamite. Stansberry also allegedly stated that there were explosives in his laptop.”
The air marshals took the incident seriously enough to take the laptop and boots to the back of the plane where they attempted to cushion the items from the rest of the aircraft, which was diverted to Bangor, Maine.
However, after a search “no explosive devices were located on the plane or in the luggage,” the Department of Justice said.
During questioning, Stansberry allegedly told police that he possessed classified documents and feared “people on the plane were following him, ridiculing him and using interrogation techniques on him,” the Department of Justice said.
He also then said that “he did not actually possess any explosive device and that he did not have the ability to make one.”
Officials said that Stansberry indicated he was under medication and had taken one Ambien, a sleeping aid, earlier in the day. The air marshals also said he had told them he had taken eight Ambiens and previously used Valium.