2 women face assault charges after American Airlines dispute, causing unexpected Phoenix landing

Kelly Pichardo (left) and Leeza Rodriguez were arrested for allegedly verbally and physically assaulting other passengers and crew members on an American Airlines flight.

A 31-year-old woman from New York was charged with assault after the United States Attorney's Office District of Arizona investigated an incident that happened on a plane in February that caused an unexpected landing in Phoenix.

Kelly Pichardo, 31, of Bronx, New York, appeared in court virtually on Wednesday for her reported interference with a flight crew member and committed "simple assault," reads a news release from the attorney's office.

Another woman's charges for her alleged involvement are pending.

"Leeza S. Rodriguez, 30, also of Bronx, New York is scheduled to appear next week on the same charges. Pichardo and Rodriguez were previously indicted by a grand jury on three counts related to events that took place in February 2021," the release went on to say.

The alleged dispute that sparked the charges against the women

The reported incident happened on a Feb. 24 American Airlines flight from Dallas to Los Angeles.

Authorities say, "Pichardo and Rodriguez each assaulted a passenger during the flight. Pichardo’s and Rodriguez’s actions compelled the flight crew to conduct an unscheduled landing in Phoenix, Arizona."

Witnesses said the women, both from New York, used racial slurs when a male passenger asked them to stop.

Pichardo allegedly spit at the man who began recording them. Rodriguez reportedly then hit the man’s hand to stop him from recording.

It's against federal law to interfere with a flight crew while they're working or to stop them from being able to perform their duties through assault and/or intimidation.

"A conviction for Interfering with a flight crew member carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of confinement and a $250,000.00 fine. A conviction for simple assault carries a maximum penalty of 6 months of confinement and a $5,000.00 fine," the news release reads.

The FBI investigated the case with help from the Phoenix Police Department.

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