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Man accused of slapping crying boy on Delta flight turns himself in

By CNN Staff
February 21, 2013 -- Updated 0132 GMT (0932 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Joe Rickey Hundley is accused of slapping a crying 19-month-old on an airline flight
  • He is charged with assaulting a minor, was released on bail
  • Hundley's attorney has said her client is being unfairly portrayed

(CNN) -- An Idaho man accused of uttering a racial slur and slapping a crying 19-month-old boy on a Delta Air Lines flight turned himself in to authorities Tuesday.

Joe Rickey Hundley of Hayden, Idaho, surrendered in that state, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta. He was charged with assaulting a minor, stemming from a February 8 incident aboard the Delta flight to Atlanta.

Hundley was released on bail.

His attorney, Marcia Shein, has said her client is being unfairly portrayed.

"This has escalated into a racist issue and I want to be clear he is not a racist," Shein said.

Will the slap heard 'round the country have lasting effects?

She also said that Hundley is dealing with unspecified issues.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta last week, the boy's mother, Jessica Bennett, 33, of Minnesota and her son were seated in Row 28, Seat B on Delta Flight 721 that originated in Minneapolis.

She spent part of the flight in the rear of the plane to get away from Hundley, who she said smelled like alcohol and was slurring his speech, according to John Thompson, the attorney for the child's family.

As the plane began its descent into Atlanta, the boy began to cry because of the altitude change and his mother tried to soothe him.

Hundley, who was seated next to the mother and son, allegedly told her to "shut that (N-word) baby up."

Hundley then turned around and slapped the child in the face with an open hand, which caused him to scream even louder, an FBI affidavit said.

The boy suffered a scratch below his right eye.

Other passengers on the plane assisted Bennett, and one of them heard the slur and witnessed the alleged assault, the affidavit said.

Shein said that even if her client did use the slur, it does not make him a racist.

CNN's MaryLynn Ryan, Ric Ward and Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

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