The Oregon woman who allegedly threatened passengers and crew aboard a Sacramento-bound Southwest Airlines flight last weekend was arraigned Thursday in Sacramento after two days of delays due to what were described as medical issues.
Valerie Lucille Curbelo, 24, of Sandy, Ore., faced a Sacramento Superior Court judge on a felony charge of issuing threats of death or great bodily injury and misdemeanor battery in a bizarre outburst last Saturday aboard inbound Southwest Flight 2943 from Portland, Ore.
Curbelo’s was the first name called on Judge Michael Sweet’s afternoon docket. Wearing her jail-issued orange and white uniform and accompanied by a Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy, Curbelo offered a wan smile to her court-appointed attorney, Sacramento County Deputy Public Defender Mark Slaughter, telling him that she was “doing better today.”
Slaughter was appointed as Curbelo’s counsel Wednesday afternoon in the Oregon woman’s absence. Sweet on Wednesday cited “medical issues” in delaying the hearing until Thursday. Slaughter declined to speak with a reporter following the Thursday hearing.
Sweet cited the alleged threat to “multiple passengers and crew members” in outlining the felony charge. Five crew members and 136 passengers were aboard the aircraft for the roughly 90-minute flight.
Video obtained by a Portland television station captured the profane tirade on the plane. A woman, later identified as Curbelo, dressed in a black jacket and donning a wide-brimmed white hat and sunglasses, shouted at a flight attendant and threatened to “kill everybody on this (expletive) plane” if pilots did not land the jet.
Southwest officials in a statement said Curbelo had been smoking in the airplane’s lavatory and had tried to tamper with its smoke detector when she was spotted by a flight attendant setting off the outburst. The pilot declared an emergency, which alerted air traffic controllers while crew members “handled the situation” until the plane touched down at Sacramento International Airport, according to the statement.
Curbelo remains held at Sacramento County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail. She returns to court Dec. 18.