Charges dropped against woman accused in flight attack

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Charges were dropped on Monday against a New York college student accused of attacking flight attendants and a passenger during a United Airlines flight in January, forcing the pilot to land at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Breanna Farquharson was 30 minutes into a flight from New York to Chicago on Jan. 7 when she approached a flight attendant and “frantically” requested to deplane, FBI officials said.

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 incident, police said.

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

Several passengers and crew members came to the aid of the victims, restraining Farquharson, a criminal complaint said. 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. at the airport. Detroit Metro Airport police arrested Farquharson there.

Farquharson was charged with interfering with flight crew members and attendants, a 20-year felony. On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Whalen approved a request by federal prosecutors to have the case dismissed.

When asked for the reason for the dismissal request, Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, said “the government needs additional time to decide whether criminal prosecution of the defendant is in the public interest.”

Farquharson was placed in the court’s pretrial diversion program, Balaya said. If she completes this program successfully, the government will not proceed with its criminal prosecution.

She is being supervised in New York.

Her parents, Delia and Raymond Farquharson, came to Detroit for a court hearing on January on the charge. They agreed to be their daughter’s third-party custodians while she was out on bond.

At the time, the court ordered Farquharson to return to Westchester, New York, and undergo a psychiatric evaluation. She was ordered to comply with medical directives, including taking medication, and be accompanied by at least one parent while traveling to and from Michigan for her case.

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

JChambers@detroitnews.com