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Man who Slapped Crying Toddler on Flight Pleads Guilty to Assault Charges

Update Date: Oct 02, 2013 07:48 PM EDT

The man accused of slapping a toddler on a Delta Air Lines flight earlier this year has pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday afternoon and faces a charge of simple assault.

Joe Rickey Hundley entered the guilty plea before Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman after reaching a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, according to the Associated Press. Hundley's trial is slated to begin on Thursday morning.

The incident occurred on Feb. 8 when Hundley, who lived in Idaho at the time, was on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta and was seated in a window seat next to Jessica Bennett. The mother was sitting in the aisle seat and had her 19-month-old adopted black son on her lap, according to court filings.

As the flight descended into Atlanta that evening, the little boy likely became irritated by the change in altitude and began crying, prosecutors said.

Smikle said Hundley used a racial slur when he addressed Bennett about the crying child.

"Ms. Bennett said, 'What did you say?' " Smikle told the court. "Mr. Hundley leaned over and fell against the face of Ms. Bennett."

According to the report, Bennett told authorities after the flight that Hundley told her to "shut that (racial slur) baby up," then slapped the child in the face with an open hand, leaving a scratch beneath the toddler's eye, according to a federal affidavit.

It was revealed in the court documents that Hundley's only son was in a coma in Atlanta following an insulin overdose that was the result of a suspected suicide attempt, his lawyer Marcia Shein told reporters after the Wednesday hearing. He spent the day before talking to his ex-wife and doctors after his son was declared brain dead and booked a last-minute flight to Atlanta so he and his ex-wife could take their son off life support.

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