by: Rachel Stockman Updated:
ATLANTA - The man accused of slapping a 2-year-old aboard a Delta flight to Atlanta pleaded not guilty to assault charges.
Joe Ricky Hundley, 60, would not speak to reporters outside of court, but his attorney admitted he uttered a racial slur during the flight.
Hundley was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault stemming from a February incident in which investigators said he slapped 2-year-old Jonah Bennett because the toddler was crying.
The toddler's mother, Jessica Bennett, said the child was crying because of the pressure, as the airplane was descending into Atlanta.
Bennett told federal investigators that Hundley also told Bennett "to shut that (racial slur) baby up."
"To hit him, I felt like I was in another world," Bennett said.
Marcia Shein, Hundley's attorney, admitted that her client uttered a racial slur.
"He was traveling from Minneapolis to Atlanta to decide to take his only child and son off of life-support, he was under a great deal of stress, he was very grieved and had been up for the prior 24 hours. When this happened, my client said something inappropriate to Mrs. Bennett, something he shouldn't have said even in his darkest hour. We hope for Mrs. Bennett's sake and my client's sake that everyone will forgive him for what he said," Shein said.
Shein said Hundley's son overdosed on insulin.
When asked about whether her client hit the 2-year-old, she responded, "We've plead not guilty. We are going to trial."