Man who threatened to stab plane passengers with box cutter, forcing landing in Atlanta, sentenced

ATLANTA — An Ohio man has been sentenced to more than two years in prison after prosecutors said he threatened to stab a fellow passenger on a flight, which forced pilots to make an emergency landing in Atlanta.

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The incident happened in Nov. 2022 on a Frontier Airlines flight en route to Tampa, Florida.

Prosecutors said that TSA officers confiscated a box cutter from passenger William Allen Liebisch before Liebisch got on the plane. TSA officers mistakenly believed they had disabled the box cutter by removing the blade.


Once on the plane. Liebisch inserted a spare blade that was stored in the box cutter’s handle.

“A passenger saw Liebisch use the box cutter to clean his nails. Another passenger reported to flight attendants that Liebisch said that he was going to stab someone,” prosecutors said.

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Because there were no officers on board, a flight attendant asked two men onboard to help keep Liebisch confined to his seat. Both men worked to keep him calm for the rest of the flight.

“We would like to thank the passengers who took action to prevent the violence Liebisch threatened in the air. No one should face harm while flying,” said FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Keri Farley.

In the meantime, the captain decided to make an emergency landing in Atlanta.

As passengers were evacuating, Liebisch charged toward a flight attendant with the box cutter. A passenger tackled him from behind while Atlanta Police officers rushed onto the plane to arrest him.

Liebisch was sentenced to 30 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

“The flying public deserves to travel in peace without fear that a fellow passenger will create a violent disturbance,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Liebisch’s conduct created panic among the flight crew and his fellow travelers. His prosecution and sentence hopefully provide a message of deterrence to others.”