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Joe Rickey Hundley: 8 months in jail for drunk's high-altitude toddler slapdown

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If you have flown anywhere, chances are you have been seated near a screaming toddler. But while the rest of us just put in our earbuds and bear it, Joe Rickey Hundley, a drunken man flying home to Atlanta last February, decided to slap a 19-month-old bawling toddler.

For that, Hundley was sentenced today to serve eight months in federal prison, reports the Huffington Post on Monday. He pleaded guilty of assault last October.

Hundley was found guilty of hitting the toddler under the eye on an Atlanta-bound flight from Minneapolis last year. As the flight was descending, Hundley evidently had all he could take, leaned over, and slapped the one-year-old. To make matters worse, he added a racial slur against the baby, who is black.

Jessica Bennett, the adoptive toddler's mother, was in the courtroom today for the sentencing.

According to a statement from an FBI agent who investigated the incident, Hundley leaned over to Bennett and “told her to shut that (N-word) baby up.” Bennett then asked Hundley what he had said, and he repeated it.

Bennett claimed Hundley “reeked of alcohol” and had witnessed him consuming several drinks over the course of the flight, which was only two hours.

Hundley was the president of an aircraft parts manufacturer, based in Idaho. He has since been fired.

To Hundley’s defense, he was dealing with something that few face – taking his son off of life support. The Huffington Post picks up the story:

“Hundley's only son was in a coma in Atlanta after an insulin overdose that was the result of a suspected suicide attempt, [Hundley's lawyer, Marcia] Shein has said. Hundley had spent the prior day talking to his ex-wife and doctors after his son was declared brain dead, Shein said, and he booked a last-minute flight to Atlanta so he and his ex-wife could take their son off life support.”

In speaking to the judge, Hundley said today: “I made the most terrible day in my life much worse for me and for others.”

Hundley, a recovering alcoholic, said he has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every day since March and is undergoing 15 hours of counseling a week. Previously, he was arrested in 2007 after a fight with his girlfriend and later pled guilty to misdemeanor assault. For his slap, he will now spend close to a year behind bars.

What are your thoughts on Hundley’s punishment? Is it excessive or too lenient? Leave your comments below.

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