Man Who Slapped Toddler on Plane Has Tragic Reason for His Actions

Joe Rickey HundleyJoe Rickey Hundley is a 60-year-old man accused of a horrific crime. Allegedly, on a plane last month, he slapped a crying toddler on a plane and told the baby's mother to "shut that (n-word) baby up." It's unconscionable, horrible, and memorable because of the depravity. And yet, now, his defense lawyer says Hundley was just insane with grief, flying out to Atlanta to take his only child off life support.

So should that matter?

Since the incident, Hundley, who worked for AGC Aerospace and Defense, has lost his job. He is being tried and could face prison and a six-figure fine for his allegedly drunken assault on a defenseless baby. And yet, as a mom, I can't help but feel for him.


Anyone who has been through horrible grieving can attest that you feel out of it, irritable, drunk even at times. There is a lot to be said for emotion that feels hard to control and overwhelming.

Add alcohol and what appears to be a particularly surly personality and you could get a toxic mix.

There is no excuse for laying hands on a baby. None. It's indefensible. And his use of a racial slur reveals that he is a racist, no matter how you slice it. This isn't a man who deserves much compassion. And yet, I can't help but imagine the pain and grief I might feel in similar circumstances. I have no doubt I could control myself better than him, but I am not emotionally stunted or repressed.

Again, there is no excuse. But there are extenuating circumstances, reasons a judge might consider not giving him jail time and instead just imposing the fine with probation.

This is what our courts look for. They look for reasons and background and we owe it to defendants to listen to them. No one could excuse what Hundley has done here. But he does look slightly more sympathetic now despite his intolerable actions.

Having been through grief enough times, I know you aren't always in control of yourself. In my case, I would have been more likely to hug inappropriately or cry on someone's shoulder. And there is no doubt Hundley needs counseling and some kind of anger management course as well as owing that baby a fine and a massive apology.

But I am not sure about jail time. I just don't know if that would solve the problem. In this case, the extenuating circumstances do make me feel for the defendant.

Do you think the judge should go easier because of what happened?


Image via angeloangelo/Flickr

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