Hawaii mom guilty of assault for yanking out toddler's hair during flight

Samantha Leialoha Watanabe in May.

Samantha Leialoha Watanabe in May.  (Dennis Oda/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

A federal jury Tuesday found a Hawaii mother guilty of assaulting her 15-month-old daughter on a flight from Alaska in May.

The jury began deliberating Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Wallenstein alleged Samantha Leialoha Watanabe cursed at her daughter, smacked her in the head, hit her in the face with a stuffed doll and yanked out tufts of her hair.

He said passengers and flight attendants on the May 3 flight believed Watanabe was unnecessarily rough to a generally well-behaved toddler named Clementine.

The trial is for the girl, Wallenstein said when the trial began. He said she was "a 15-month-old child who was pushed in the face with an open hand with enough force to cause her head to jerk all the back to its full range of motion."

Defense attorney Alexander Silvert argued the allegations were fabricated by judgmental passengers who didn't like how Watanabe looked and dressed her child.

The girl was wearing a Playboy bunny pendant -- considered a symbol of pornography to a passenger but simply a bunny to a child, Silvert said last week.

The defense attorney said evidence would show the toddler didn't have any bruises or marks on her body and that there was no bleeding, redness or other signs of hair that was pulled out.