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Public Safety

Brazilian man sentenced for intimidating crew on Chicago flight diverted to Cedar Rapids

He will be deported back to Brazil following his prison time

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Brazilian tattoo artist was sentenced Tuesday to one year in federal prison for intimidating a flight crew on a Canadian flight bound for Chicago that was diverted to Cedar Rapids.

Guilherme Alves De Melo, 33, pleaded guilty in August in U.S. District Court to one count of intimidating a flight crew member and interfering with the crew’s ability to perform duties.

During that hearing, Alves admitted his behavior was intimidating and that he interfered with the crew during the June 23 flight. Alves was found competent for trial but diagnosed as having a psychotic episode during the flight.

During Tuesday’s sentencing, U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade said Alves, who is not a United States citizen, would be deported back to Brazil after serving prison time.

Prosecutors agreed to a prison term of one year and one day because Alves was diagnosed with having an “acute psychotic episode.” He could have faced a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Reade also ordered Alves to serve three years of supervised release and to pay victim restitution of $5,245 to two people on the plane that day and $4,790 to American Airlines.

During previous hearings, Homeland Security special agent Christopher Cantrell testified that passengers and crew aboard the flight reported Alves had a “temper tantrum,” punched himself in the face and then told a flight attendant, “Why are you hitting me?” Cantrell said.

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Another passenger said Alves drew on his face with a pen or marker and started talking in different languages, like he was talking on a phone that wasn’t there, Cantrell said. Alves also made motions like he was slitting his wrists, Cantrell said.

In general, people on the plane were “frightened and children were crying,” Cantrell said.

Passengers helped restrain Alves with zip ties provided by the flight crew, according to the criminal complaint, and the flight was diverted to The Eastern Iowa Airport.

Cantrell testified at a previous hearing that Alves, after his arrest, told investigators he had eaten part of his boarding pass to prove he was part of a movie being filmed on the flight. Alves also ripped up his personal identification, expired visa, a temporary visa and boarding pass during the flight.

Paul Eggerman, a Cedar Rapids psychologist who evaluated Alves in July, previously testified Alves had “limited, spotty” memory of what happened on the plane and said the incident was scary to him. A toxicology report ruled out drugs or alcohol as a factor in Alves’ behavior.

Alves was also charged in state court for his actions after the plane landed in Cedar Rapids when he was removed by Cedar Rapids police. He was charged with disorderly conduct, pleaded guilty in Linn County District Court and was fined $100.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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