A flight attendant accused of fabricating a story that prompted an emergency landing in North Dakota told an FBI agent he caused a similar incident on the East Coast earlier this summer.
Justin Cox-Sever, 22, of Tempe, Arizona, is accused of stuffing a bag with towels and reporting it as a suspicious package making beeping noises on a SkyWest Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Dickinson on Sept. 9. The Dickinson airport was temporarily shut down after the plane landed.
Cox-Sever is charged in federal court in North Dakota with interfering with the operation of an aircraft and communicating false information.
FBI Special Agent Daniel Genck, who handled the investigation, said in an affidavit that Cox-Sever admitted planting the bag and that he fabricated a bomb threat on a flight from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Chicago on July 7.
That SkyWest flight was diverted back to Charlottesville after Cox-Sever reported that someone had written a threat on a wall of the plane's bathroom. Cox-Sever confessed that he wrote the threat himself, according to the affidavit.
"Cox-Sever stated he was extorted by a friend who told him that he needed to `bring down' a plane or else they would harm him and his family," Genck wrote. "Following further questioning, Cox-Sever recanted his claim of extortion and admitted he had written the threat willingly."
Neil Fulton, head of the federal public defender's office for the Dakotas, told The Associated Press that defense attorneys "have seen no documentation" to back up Genck's allegation that Cox-Sever was responsible for the bomb threat.
"(Cox-Sever) is presumed innocent and all allegations are only that," Fulton said.
The FBI in Virginia is continuing to investigate the bomb threat on the Charlottesville flight and "our office is aware of Special Agent Genck's investigation," spokeswoman Dee Rybiski said. She declined further comment.
SkyWest Airlines, which operated the North Dakota flight for Delta and the Virginia flight for American Airlines, initially placed Cox-Sever on administrative leave. SkyWest spokeswoman Marissa Snow on Tuesday said Cox-Sever is no longer employed by the airline.
"The safety and security of our customers and people are our top priority," she said.
Cox-Sever could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted on both counts in North Dakota.