Monday, May 16, 2016

Man Pleads Guilty To Forcibly Removing Airline Passenger's Hijab

According to a Justice Department press release, on Friday a 37-year old North Carolina man pleaded guilty to one count of using force or the threat of force to intentionally obstruct a Muslim woman's free exercise of religion. In the plea agreement (full text) filed in New Mexico federal district court, defendant Gil Parker Payne admits that last December while on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque he forcibly pulled the hijab off the head of a Muslim woman on the flight, telling her "Take it off! This is America!"  In the plea agreement, the government recommends a sentence of probation, with two months home detention, plus any fine or restitution set by the court.

Head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta, mentioned this case among others in reviewing the government's recent hate crime prosecutions.  Her remarks came in a speech (full text) at the Muslim Advocates annual gala at which she accepted the Justice Thurgood Marshall Award.