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Terror Twins Cool Their Jets in an Alaskan Jail

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a town that takes a certain pride in bad behavior, this was a case so extreme that even Alaskans have raised an eyebrow.

The story of the identical twins thrown off an airplane in Anchorage for fighting--the brawl involved the sisters, three flight attendants, a pilot and an extreme need for a cigarette--has had as many headlines in this city as the close of the legislative session.

“Raging twins,” they’ve been called in the local paper. Or on the street, simply, “the twins.” Their saga has persisted because of a series of court hearings, still ongoing weeks after the April 19 incident on the United Airlines jet bound from San Francisco to Shanghai.

Crystal and Cynthia Mikula, 22, would have been released on bail, authorities say, except for a federal magistrate’s fears that they would pose a public risk if allowed to board an aircraft again without strong adult supervision.

“What’s the evidence that these two people would do what anyone else told them to do?” argued Assistant U.S. Atty. Charlie Brown, who is prosecuting the case. “Their basic attitude was: ‘We’ll do what we damn well want to'--a complete unwillingness to respond to any kind of authority.”

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So the sisters, who had been en route from their home in Buckley, Mich., to a modeling competition in China, remain in federal custody in Anchorage. That’s where their plane made an 1,100-mile detour to eject them--and where a judge ordered strict curfew and supervision restrictions for whenever they’re released.

“I have seen less onerous conditions for people charged with sexual abuse, money laundering and fraud,” defense lawyer Ray Brown has complained in court.

“I think the public is entitled to the assurance that everything is well in hand,” U.S. Magistrate John Roberts countered.

Anchorage--a town that is stranger to neither barroom brawls nor challenges to authority--has shown little sympathy. That’s due in part to fears that the case will make things harder for everyone else who travels.

“By their actions, it’s going to make it harder for other people when they get on a plane. There’s going to be a totally different outlook on stuff,” complained a bartender at the Last Frontier here who asked to be identified simply as Mary. “The opinion around this bar is, an airplane is no place to fight. And if you’re going to fight, then sit down. Don’t hit the pilot--he’s flying the plane!”

“I think it’s a little bit outrageous to do that in the air,” added Bill Thomas, a waiter.

According to FBI affidavits, the two sisters sat quietly in Row 55 through the movie and meal service but began drinking after lunch. Their demeanor “deteriorated,” agent Michael Thoreson said.

They began to call each other profane names and physically fought with one another. They made several trips to the bathroom, after which passengers smelled cigarette smoke. And as they moved toward the back of the plane, Cynthia told her sister: “I’ve gotta get out of here. Let me off this airplane. I’ve gotta smoke. You’ve gotta open this door.”

At that point, things took a turn for the worse. A flight attendant--apparently fearing Cynthia was going to open the door--stepped up, and Cynthia allegedly struck her in the nose, drawing blood. One of the off-duty pilots on board escorted the sisters back to their seats, and, an investigator said, Cynthia struck him on the head with her fist.

When another flight attendant approached, Cynthia struck him in the face and swung and spit at other flight attendants, according to the affidavits. The pilot returned to try to handcuff Cynthia’s wrists and ankles, at which time Crystal allegedly jumped on the back of one of the flight attendants and applied a chokehold.

At that point, the Boeing 747 was over the Pacific Ocean, 2,200 miles from Tokyo and 1,100 miles from Anchorage. The pilots decided to divert to Anchorage, where the 220 passengers and 22 crew members were put up in hotels.

The two sisters were charged with interfering with the performance of the duties of a flight crew, a federal charge that carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison.

After several hearings on bail conditions, the judge ruled that the young women could be released to the custody of both parents, under strict terms of supervision. But the release has been delayed because of the high expense the family would face flying the sisters back and forth to court hearings from Michigan, with both parents required to accompany them under the judge’s orders.

“I don’t even know what happened up there, but I know my girls. And when justice is done, it’s going to look a lot different,” their father, Joseph Mikula, said in a brief telephone interview. “This has all been blown out of shape. I know what they’re really like, and what you’re hearing about, I know it’s not my girls.”


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