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San Jose man gets prison for disrupting flight

LOS ANGELES -- Ten months after he forced a Southwest Airlines jet to

land at Burbank Airport, a San Jose man was sentenced to two years in

federal prison for interfering with a flight crew, authorities said.

Joe Luis Mendez, 35, received the maximum sentence Monday from Judge

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Audrey Collins in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, said Assistant U.S.

Atty. David Fields. A charge of air piracy against Mendez was dismissed,

he added.

Collins also ordered Mendez to continue taking medication that

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maintains his mental stability, said Fields, who could not say what type

of medication Mendez takes.

The sentence comes more than two months after Mendez pleaded guilty to

the interference charge.

He was arrested at Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport on Jan. 12

after demanding that Southwest Airlines Flight 923 -- en route from San

Diego to San Jose -- land in Hollywood.

After being informed by the captain there was no airport in Hollywood,

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Mendez, who was unarmed, agreed to land in Burbank, Fields said. He was

arrested when the plane landed and has been jailed since that time.

Fields said the Federal Bureau of Prisons will determine where Mendez

will serve his sentence. In the federal system, inmates must serve 85% of

their sentences before they are eligible to be released for good

behavior, he added. When Mendez is released, he will be under

supervision for three years. He was also fined $8,535, Fields said.


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