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Mom speaks about passenger charged with slapping son

8:09 AM, Feb 18, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- A Minneapolis woman is telling her side of the story after an Idaho businessman is charged with assaulting her crying toddler on an airplane. Jessica Bennett said her 19-month-old son, Jonah, started crying because of the altitude change. 

"That's when the man next to me said something I couldn't believe," said Bennett.

A Federal Criminal Complaint obtained by 11Alive News it stated "According to Ms. Bennett, a male passenger seated next to her in row 28, seat A, later identified as Joe Rickey Hundley, told her to shut that (racial slur) baby up. Ms. Bennett stated that Joe Rickey Hundley then turned around and slapped (her son) in the face with an open hand."

RELATED | Man charged with slapping toddler loses job

Bennett claimed Hundley's slap caused a scratch below her son's right eye.

"I couldn't believe he would say something like that to a baby or about a baby," Bennett said.  "And then to hit him? I felt like I was in another world, I was shaking."

Hundley is the President of an aircraft parts manufacturer in Idaho.  He denied striking the child or using a racial slur. He has since been suspended from his job.

11Alive News has learned that in 2007 Hundley pleaded guilty to assault after a fight with his girlfriend.

It appears there were several witnesses that saw the incident on the plane.

According to the complaint Bennett received assistance from a number of people, including passenger Todd Wooten. "Mr. Wooten was seated in row 16, seat C, and heard derogatory language coming from the rear of the aircraft," the complaint said. "According to Mr. Wooten, he saw Joe Rickey Hundley strike (the boy)."

Bennett is convinced Hundley was intoxicated when he boarded the plane, adding that he "reeked of alcohol".

Hundley's Decatur Attorney said she is sure both parties are very nice people. "We want the case to move along as it's supposed to," said Attorney Marcia Shein. "We hope it will resolve itself."

Unitech, the aerospace and defense company Hundley works for posted a statement on their website:

"We understand that authorities are investigating the recent behavior of one of our business unit executives while on personal travel. The allegations are disturbing and are contradictory to our values."

"We are taking this matter seriously. In accordance with our company's personal conduct policy, we have suspended the employee pending investigation."

You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kgrowson

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