Virginia man gets 3 months in prison for disrupting cross-country flight diverted to Colorado

DENVER (AP) — A Virginia man who disrupted a cross-country flight that led to the plane being diverted to Colorado has been sentenced to three months in prison.

A federal judge in Denver on Friday also ordered Muhammad Abu Tahir, 47, of Glen Allen, Va., to pay $14,584 in restitution to AirTran Airways and be on supervised release for three years.

Tahir, originally from Pakistan and now a permanent U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty in March to interfering with a flight crew. He faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if he had been convicted at trial.

Tahir was arrested Jan. 8 after the plane flying from Atlanta to San Francisco was diverted to Colorado Springs. He drank five mini-bottles of wine, locked himself in a lavatory to shave and then became unruly when he was asked to return to his seat, authorities said.

Tahir went to the restroom and opened the door once to place his shoes and socks outside the lavatory, investigators said. The second time he opened the door, he was shirtless and began to yell at flight attendants ordering him to leave the bathroom, investigators said. When the plane landed, Tahir was still in the washroom, they said.

Two military jets followed the plane to Colorado Springs as a precaution.

After a court hearing in February, Tahir told reporters that he had been on the plane for four hours and had to clean himself. He said he might have been drunk and apologized for that.

Tahir's arrest came amid growing anxiety over airline security. Weeks earlier, on Christmas Day, a Nigerian man was accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane.

"Today's sentencing demonstrates that there are serious consequences to interfering with the duties of a flight crew," said David Gaouette, U.S. attorney for Colorado.