Bail agreement for passenger who disrupted London flight

A US Airways plane. Flight 728 finally departed Philadelphia for good about 3 a.m. Wednesday, five hours after the original takeoff.
A US Airways plane. Flight 728 finally departed Philadelphia for good about 3 a.m. Wednesday, five hours after the original takeoff. (Bloomberg)
Posted: May 21, 2014

What a difference six days can make.

The apparently drunk, unruly passenger who allegedly groped three women before air marshals arrested him after a US Airways flight to London was forced to return to Philadelphia International Airport last Tuesday appeared contrite, fresh-faced, and calm in federal court Monday on charges that he interfered with the flight crew.

Robert John Coppack, 40, was led by U.S. marshals into the courtroom of Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski in handcuffs, and wearing olive-green slacks and shirt.

From the outset, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Grieb and federal public defender Kathleen Gaughan agreed on bail terms, which the judge approved.

Prosecutors wanted Coppack, who has dual citizenship in the United States and the United Kingdom, to be detained in Pennsylvania until his trial.

Under the agreement, Coppack will be released to a treatment program for mental health, drug, and alcohol addiction at Bowling Green Brandywine in Kennett Square.

While there, he will wear an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle, receive treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, abstain from alcohol, and surrender his U.K. and U.S. passports.

He also must undergo random drug and alcohol testing, Sitarski ordered.

When inpatient treatment ends, Coppack, of LaVerne, Calif., will have another hearing, and may be released to a residential facility. He must wear an electronic monitor until his trial or the outcome of the federal charges.

Coppack said little during Monday's hearing. Prosecutors said they had Coppack's British passport. He told Sitarski that his U.S. passport had expired.

The public defender said her client admitted "probable cause" that he violated federal law. As part of the treatment, "he's acknowledging some issues he has to deal with," Gaughan said afterward.

According to an FBI affidavit, Coppack was charged with intimidating a flight crew after two female passengers complained that he had touched them "inappropriately," and that they "felt uncomfortable sitting next to him."

Coppack told the passengers he had been drinking vodka, the criminal complaint said.

When a flight attendant told Coppack not to touch anyone, he became "aggressive and used vulgar language to her and the passengers around him," court papers said.

The crew asked Coppack to go to the rear of the aircraft, and as he walked he touched another passenger, a retired flight attendant, on the arm and breast, court papers said.

Coppack was confronted at the back of the plane by federal air marshals who were on board. He allegedly threatened to assault them physically if they did not leave him alone. He was handcuffed and restrained in a seat until the plane returned to Philadelphia.

He was "physically aggressive and belligerent, and requested to speak to the Consulate of the United Kingdom," court papers said. "Coppack was extremely intoxicated."

US Airways Flight 728 departed Philadelphia again about 3 a.m. Wednesday, five hours after the original flight had taken off.

"Our flight crews are completely prepared to deal with issues like this. They are rare, but unfortunately do arise at times," airline spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said. "Flight 728 continued to London Heathrow with the same flight crew as originally scheduled."


lloyd@phillynews.com

215-854-2831

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