An Iranian national accused of making an anti-American threat after being caught smoking aboard an Air Canada flight on Sept. 27 was convicted by a federal jury on charges of interfering with a flight crew.
Javid Naghani, 37, who runs a janitorial service called Cleaning of America, was convicted Thursday and will be sentenced March 4 by U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew, who presided over a three-day trial. Jurors deliberated about two hours.
Naghani, a legal U.S. resident, could be sentenced to a maximum 20 years in federal prison. He was being held without bail.
Air Canada Flight 792 was bound from Los Angeles to Toronto with 138 passengers when, about an hour into the flight, the pilots turned the plane around and returned to Los Angeles International Airport under military jet escort.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Yang said in her closing argument that Naghani lit a cigarette in the lavatory and when the smoke alarm rang he lied about smoking and was uncooperative. Naghani got so angry at being reprimanded by flight attendants that he threatened to kill all Americans, the prosecutor said.
``He didn't care about the rules,'' Yang told jurors. ``He didn't care about the safety of any of the other passengers. He knew that he was not to smoke on airplanes, but he did it anyway.''
Defense attorney Theodore Flier claimed Naghani was racially profiled.
``They were scared because he is Middle Eastern,'' Flier said in his closing argument. ``This is a human being who made a mistake. There was no intimidation, no interference.''
Naghani was traveling with his wife and dog for a vacation in Canada.
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