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JetBlue Attendant Steven Slater Pleads Guilty

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By Jason Beahm on October 19, 2010 2:22 PM

Gotta love the plea bargain. It's how a person goes from facing felony charges to serving a year of probation.

In the case of JetBlue attendant Steven Slater, it was really no surprise. His case was a textbook example of a situation where a plea bargain was likely. He did something foolish and no one was hurt, though someone could have been. Slater was looking at serious charges, including a felony, after he pulled the emergency chute on an August 9th JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh to New York. Slater had an altercation with a passenger after the plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

After the altercation, Slater swore at the passenger over the public address system, grabbed a beer for the road, popped open the emergency chute and slid away to a fleeting moment of freedom and excitement.

Steven Slater became a brief media sensation and a bit of a hero, but District Attorney Richard Brown did not find his antics amusing. With the plea deal, Slater pled guilty to second-degree attempted criminal mischief and fourth degree attempted criminal mischief. The first count is a felony, but it will be dismissed leaving only a misdemeanor on his record if Slater completes counseling and substance abuse treatment for a least a year in addition to probation. If he fails to meet the requirements, he could be sentenced to between one and three years in jail, MSNBC.com reports.

"At the end of the day, I'm a grown-up and I must take responsibility for my actions ... I am very grateful to the court for making these arrangements," said Slater.

It's another example of the difference that quality representation can make in a criminal case. The prosecution has a huge incentive to negotiate, as it does not have the time to try even a small percentage of the cases that come in. The defense has an incentive as well: avoiding the uncertainty of a jury trial and the harsh penalties that would result from a conviction. In the end, with a plea deal, ideally both parties walk away satisfied.

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