A man accused of slapping a toddler on an Atlanta-bound flight and using a racial slur has pleaded not guilty to assault in federal court.

Joe Rickey Hundley, of Hayden, Idaho, appeared in court Wednesday. Authorities say he used racial slur when telling a fellow passenger to quiet her baby and slapped the child. The incident unfolded Feb. 8 aboard a Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis.

Hundley's attorney, Marcia Shein, says the 60-year-old man has admitted to using the racial slur. She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Hundley was traveling to Atlanta to take his only child off of life support after his son overdosed on insulin. She says Hundley was distraught during the flight.

"On that flight he was upset stressed and grieving and made comments to Mrs. Bennett he should never had made and is very apologetic for having said what he did and he hopes for everyone's sake that she will heal and forgive him," Shein said.

While acknowledging Hundley made a racial remark, His attorney maintains he never slapped the toddler, MyFoxAtlanta.com reported.

"We believe that what happened that night was an accident or inadvertent, where the child was injured, but it wasn't because Mr. Hundley intentionally or in fact did strike the child in any way," Shein said.

The toddler's mother, Jessica Bennett, told authorities her son started to cry and that's when handle reportedly used a racial slur and slapped the child in the face, the station reported.

Hundley is scheduled to appear again in court April 9.

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