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DA mulls alternative program for Slater

Steven Slater’s rant and escape from a JetBlue aircraft following an argument with a rowdy passenger last month turned him into an Internet sensation, but the flight attendant’s mental state during the caper may get him out of serving serious jail time.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced Tuesday that his office is pursuing the option of placing the 38-year-old Belle Harbor resident in an alternative sentencing program. The program was requested by Slater, who is facing reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and criminal trespass charges in the Aug. 9 incident, and requires an evaluation. If he is admitted, Slater would have to address mental health, stress-related problems, alcohol abuse and other issues, according to Brown.

“By conducting an alternative sentencing evaluation at this time, we can hopefully reach a disposition of this case that balances the seriousness of the charges and the needs of the defendant,” he said in a statement.

Slater made a brief appearance in State Supreme Court in Queens Tuesday and his case was adjourned to Oct. 19, according to the DA. If convicted of those charges, he could face up to seven years in prison, Brown said.

Slater, who was fired from JetBlue this week, did not speak during his brief appearance in court. The flight attendant has contended that he quit.

During his final day working for the airline, however, he was allegedly loud and caused serious damage to the workers at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Slater was working as a flight attendant on a plane that traveled from Pittsburgh to New York when he got into an argument with a passenger over carry-on luggage, investigators said. During the fight, he was allegedly hit in the head by the luggage, according to the DA.

The time of the dispute has not been verified since Slater’s attorney claims it took place before takeoff while investigators said it happened after the plane landed.

Before passengers were let off the plane, Slater allegedly cursed out the passenger over the plane’s PA system, stole two beers and escaped onto the JFK tarmac through an emergency chute, the DA’s office said. He fled to his home but was apprehended by Port Authority police a short time later.

Slater became an overnight celebrity for his alleged stunt and has fans throughout the world. His Facebook fan page had more than 209,000 people as of press time Tuesday and continues to grow.

DA Brown, however, said he was not amused. He reiterated that Slater’s escape posed a dangerous risk to workers who were on the tarmac during the incident and cost the airline $25,000 for opening the chute.

“I have said from the beginning that I’ve been very much troubled by the fact that both the defendant and the media have been trivializing that which occurred,” he said. “Deploying an emergency escape chute on an aircraft filled with passengers is no laughing matter.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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