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Former Miss Venezuela on trial in Houston for ugly behavior on United Airlines flight

Carmen Lechin in a 2011 mug shot from a different incident. Inset: In happier times, Carmen Maria Montiel competing at the 1984 Miss Universe pageant in Miami.

Carmen Lechin in a 2011 mug shot from a different incident. Inset: In happier times, Carmen Maria Montiel competing at the 1984 Miss Universe pageant in Miami.  (Main, Eagle County, Colorado, Sheriff's Office; Inset: Via YouTube)

A former Miss Venezuela now finds herself in unflattering light in a federal courtroom in Houston, Texas.

Carmen Lechin, the 1984 Miss Venezuela who finished in third place at that year’s Miss Universe pageant, is on trial for assaulting a flight attendant on a United Airlines red-eye from Houston to Bogotá, Colombia.

The former beauty queen, 50, is also charged with felony interference with a flight crew in the 2013 incident, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The exchange got so heated that the captain decided to turn the plane around and return to Houston.

The woman She was traveling in first-class with her husband, the Houston-area pulmonologist Alex Lechin, whom she was in the process of divorcing at the time, and their teenage daughter. The couple was having a series of arguments, according to the prosecution’s opening statements, and Lechin got upset and abusive with flight attendant Samuel Oliver when he told her that United no longer offered pillows to passengers.

After some time, Oliver handed her a written warning saying, "Your behavior is violating federal law." Allegedly, she crumpled it up and threw it at the steward.

Lechin was handcuffed with zip ties by an off-duty police officer who happened to be onboard. 

At the time Lechin was on probation for a domestic violence incident that occurred in 2011 in Colorado.

"We're going to prove to you that Samuel Oliver did not follow regulations," the Chronicle reported her lawyer saying that he became hysterical, that he overreacted and that he displayed poor judgment.

In his opening statement, Lechin’s lawyer told jurors that her client was "in the midst of a very emotional situation with her husband" and she got "scared and worried" because he kept calling the flight attendant.

Fellow passenger and Houston Police Department officer Nicole Anzola was called on by the crew to restrain Lechin. As soon as she identified herself as law enforcement, the Venezuelan calmed down.

Anzola told the court that after handcuffing Lechin, she took her to the coach cabin, where they sat together while the plane returned to Houston.

Anzola said Lechin was afraid she would “get in trouble” for another run-in with the law. She also testified that she could smell alcohol on Lechin’s breath.

In court documents, Lechin’s lawyers suggested that her husband, mindful of her probation, was trying to get her into legal difficulty in order to influence the "family court's division of assets” in their divorce.

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