Man gets probation in attack

He must also pay $1,500 to attendant for in-flight incident

May 01, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

A federal judge in Baltimore sentenced a Silver Spring man yesterday to three years' probation for assaulting a flight attendant during an "air rage" rampage, taking note of medical testimony that the 22-year-old college student had experienced a "psychiatric episode."

The sentence imposed on Dean William Trammel by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake was significantly less than the 27 to 33 months in prison recommended under federal sentencing guidelines for those like Trammel who are first-time offenders.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph L. Evans had asked that Trammel serve at least 15 months in a federal prison with a mental health facility, saying he had committed a "serious offense" and that a strong sentence was needed to deter others from terrorizing fellow passengers and airline personnel.

The flight attendant who was attacked on the Baltimore-bound plane, Renee Sheffer, said afterward that she was "a little disappointed" in

Blake's sentence, saying she had hoped her assailant would have been forced to have "some institutionalization."

"At least I don't have to come back here" to federal court in Baltimore, added Sheffer, 35, who lives in Charlotte, N.C.

As part of his sentence, Blake ordered Trammel to pay $1,500 in restitution to Sheffer, who has been emotionally unable to return to work as a flight attendant since she was punched in the face and thrown across three rows of seats aboard U.S. Airways Flight 38 from Los Angeles on Dec. 16, 1997. Sheffer said the payment, to be made at $50 a month, would serve as a reminder to Trammel of the damage he caused.

In announcing the sentence in a courtroom whose spectators included several of Trammel's supporters, as well as Sheffer and her husband Michael, Blake also noted that the man's conduct appeared to be an instance of aberrant behavior.

"This is an incident that occurred over an extremely short period of time. It certainly was not the result of planning," Blake said.

Blake found Trammel guilty in January of interfering with a flight attendant after a five-day, non- jury trial. Passengers and crew members testified that Trammel, declaring himself to be Jesus, went on a rampage and tried unsuccessfully to get into the plane's cockpit. Blake rejected defense arguments that his mental condition made him not criminally responsible for his behavior.

Trammel, who had been free while awaiting his trial and sentencing, also must continue with the counseling he has been receiving and must get approval from his probation officer and the airline before taking any flights, Blake said.

Trammel, once a football player at Santa Monica College in California who now attends Bowie State University, left the courthouse smiling but declined to comment on his sentence.

During his sentencing hearing, Trammel said he wanted to "formally apologize" for what he'd done. "I do understand the seriousness of the crime," he said.

His attorneys, public defenders Barry J. Pollack and James Wyda, argued yesterday that Trammel was responding well to treatment and that he should be allowed to stay out of prison and continue his education.

"What we're desperately asking is that the court not punish Dean Trammel in a way that takes away his future," Wyda said.

But Evans, the prosecutor, said some incarceration was necessary to underscore the seriousness of violent acts committed in aircraft flying at 35,000 feet at 600 mph.

"This is a problem of increasing severity and mounting importance," he said.

Pub Date: 5/01/99

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