Airline passenger accused of assaulting crew released

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

A New York college student accused of assaulting flight attendants and a passenger during a United Airlines flight, forcing the pilot to land at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, was released to the custody of her parents on Tuesday.

Breanna Farquharson, 22, appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon for a detention hearing. She was named in a federal complaint on Friday by the FBI that says 30 minutes into a flight from New York to Chicago on Thursday, she approached a flight attendant and “frantically” requested to deplane.

When the attendant told Farquharson she could not, the woman ran to the back of the airplane and approached a second flight attendant. An FBI agent said Farquharson grabbed the flight attendant and pulled her necklace and an employee badge off. The attendant suffered a small scratch to her upper lip from the assault, police said.

Farquharson then assaulted a passenger by grabbing her shirt collar and necklace, breaking the necklace.

Several passengers and crew members came to the aid of the victims, restraining Farquharson. When she resisted, they tied her hands behind her back with a seat belt and bound her feet with an attendant’s apron and a passenger’s neck tie, the complaint said.

The plane, carrying 69 passengers and four crew members, landed at 8 p.m. Thursday and Detroit Metro Airport police arrested Farquharson. She is charged with interfering with flight crew members and attendants, a 20-year felony.

U.S. Magistrate Anthony Patti spoke to Farquharson, who was dressed in prison clothes and shackled. The student responded, “Hello, nice to meet you.”

Patti asked Farquharson a series of questions ranging from who was the current U.S. president to whether she understood the charges against her. After being satisfied with her answers, Patti spoke to her parents, Delia and Raymond Farquharson, who appeared in the courtroom and agreed to be their daughter’s third-party custodians while she is out on bond.

Patti agreed to released Farquharson on bond with several conditions: Farquharson must return to Westchester, New York, within 24 hours and undergo a psychiatric evaluation. She also must comply with medical directives, including taking medication, and she must be accompanied by at least one parent while traveling to and from Michigan for her case.

Farquharson also told the judge she had a job at a start-up and had completed two years of college at SUNY Binghamton.

Delia and Raymond Farquharson both agreed to the conditions. Patti asked the couple if they understood that being a custodian meant reporting any bond violations, which could land their daughter back in jail. They said they did.

“She really needs help and support and you can provide it,” Patti said.

Delia Farquharson, who identified herself as a licensed social worker and graduate of Columbia University, asked to address the judge, telling him that she and her husband were grateful for the compassion and professional courtesy they and their daughter were shown in the last several days by the FBI, pretrial services and attorneys.

“Everyone has been more than gracious. We are really moved how this really traumatic experience has been made bearable,” she said.

Farquharson is expected to return to court on March 14.