An Iranian immigrant took the stand in his federal court trial Wednesday and denied having threatened to "kill all Americans" during a Sept. 27 flight from Los Angeles to Toronto.
"I swear to God, I never say that and I never will," said Javid Naghani, a 37-year-old Woodland Hills businessman charged with interfering with the Air Canada flight crew.
Naghani denied the testimony of two flight attendants that he made the threat after being reprimanded for smoking in an airplane lavatory.
An Air Canada flight attendant, Nathalie Frechett, testified before the Los Angeles jury Wednesday that she was distracted during the confrontation with Naghani and that his accent made him difficult to understand.
But she said she was certain about the threat to kill Americans. "This was crystal clear to my ears," she said. "I went into shock. I felt like throwing up."
Rand Peppler, a computer software designer who sat four rows from Naghani, testified, however, that he never heard the defendant make any anti-American threats.
Peppler said Naghani yelled, "I am an American," at least half a dozen times.
The defendant, who emigrated from Iran in 1979, is a permanent resident of the United States, according to his lawyer, Theodore Flier.
The prosecution contends that Naghani, who had three or four drinks in an airport lounge before the flight, became abusive after being told that he could be arrested for smoking in the lavatory. Prosecutors also say he would not tell flight attendants where he had discarded his cigarette butt.
On the witness stand, Naghani denied those allegations and said he had apologized profusely for violating the smoking ban.
He said he begged the crew not to have him arrested, explaining that he needed to be available to pay employees of his janitorial service, Cleaning of America, in Canoga Park.
The defense has suggested that, given Naghani's heavy accent, the flight attendants may have mistaken "Cleaning of America" for "killing Americans."
Naghani also disputed a police officer's testimony that he shouted obscenities about President Bush and America in a holding cell at LAX.
Officer Troy Tamaki said Naghani told him, "If I had a .45, I'd shoot you." The defendant denied saying that.
Both sides rested at the end of the day. The jury is expected to get the case today.
If convicted, Naghani could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.