Heather Cho was accused of forcing a Korean Air aircraft to return back to the departure gate, whilst still connected to a tug and being 'pushed back. The first class passenger demanded a steward was offloaded as she did not like the way she had been served nuts (!!!)
The conviction carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, in prison. Prosecutors asked for three years, But the Court has handed down a one year jail term. Cho, was a vice-president with the airline, and found guilty of obstructing aviation safety. She ordered her Seoul-bound plane, which was locked down (and already moving in a tug powered 'push back' positioning manoeuvre) at New York's JFK Airport to return to the gate and offload the chief steward on December 5th. Fellow first class passengers, called as witnesses, said she became angry after being served macadamia nuts in a bag, and not poured by the Steward into a bowl.
Her defence team argued that aviation safety had not been violated as the plane was still being pushed back by a connected tug towards the runway taxi way. However, reports say the judge rejected the defence argument, ruling the plane having left the stand was technically classed as in flight and therefore she interfered with an in-flight aircraft.
Cho, the daughter of the chairman of Korean Air, was also charged with assault, and interfering in an investigation.
Cho, ( known as Cho Hyun-ah), publicly apologised for the incident and resigned from all her posts at the airline in December.
The trial opened a national debate about the Korean business system, which is dominated by family firms known as chaebols. The families running these businesses have sometimes been accused of high-handedness and acting with impunity. All that will now change as the matter for the first time in South Korean business circles, is being publicly debated following the 'nut rage' case.
Sources: BBC, PA, CNS, AFP
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