A 28-year-old woman was sentenced to two years in federal prison Monday for helping a companion terrorize passengers and crew aboard a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Los Angeles last year.
"Your conduct was unconscionable," U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian told a sobbing Susan K. Callihan of Santa Barbara. "You put in jeopardy the lives of 130 passengers and crew. This court has zero tolerance for this kind of behavior."
At her trial, Callihan contended that she was trying to control her friend, Thomas Kasper, 36, who barged into the first-class section of the plane, tried to force open the cockpit door and then poured a pot of scalding coffee over a flight attendant.
The government charged, however, that Kasper and Callihan acted as a team and that she, too, tried to force open the cockpit door.
Before handing down the sentence, Tevrizian rejected a defense motion for a new trial on grounds that Callihan's trial attorney failed to diligently pursue leads that could have led to her acquittal.
The defense also put on the stand a psychologist who testified that Callihan's behavior on the plane probably resulted from post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by childhood physical and sexual abuse.
Kasper pleaded guilty to a charge of interfering with a flight crew by force and intimidation and is awaiting sentencing.