- Getty/Don Arnold
- Australian model Adau Mornyang has been found guilty of physically and verbally assaulting a member of United Airlines’ cabin crew.
- The former Miss Australia finalist shouted and slapped the flight attendant after being asked to quieten down and being denied more alcohol on board the flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles in January, trial evidence showed.
- She was arrested upon landing and now faces up to 21 years in US prison.
- Mornyang denies the charges and says she slept through the whole flight.
An Australian model could face up to 21 years in prison after being convicted of assaulting a flight attendant on board a plane travelling from Melbourne to Los Angeles after she was reportedly cut off from the onboard drinks service.
Former Miss Australia finalist Adau Akui Atem Mornyang, 24, “appeared to be intoxicated” when she slapped and shouted at a member of United Airlines’ cabin crew during a flight on January 21, according to a press release from the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
Mornyang denies that any assault took place.
A US air marshal described the incident as “the most severe he has encountered in his ten years” on the job, according to the Herald Sun, which reported that the disturbance took place after the model was refused alcohol service onboard.
- Getty/Don Arnold
Mornyang, who is based in New York but is from the Australian state of Victoria, told The Herald Sun that she had two glasses of wine with prescription drugs and went to sleep.
She said all she remembers is “waking up after sleeping for eight hours.”
Meanwhile, flight attendants said they had cut her off after “five or six glasses of wine and spotting an empty bottle near where she was sitting in the middle of the plane.”
“Even though passengers on that flight and other flight attendants said there was never a slap, the evidence was ignored and they decided to believe (the flight attendant),” Mornyang said.
The model, who was born in South Sudan and moved to Australia aged 10, was found guilty in a Los Angeles federal court on Thursday.
She will be sentenced on June 24, where she faces a maximum sentence of 21 years behind bars, the DoJ said.
The jury convicted Mornyang of one count of interference with a flight crew – a felony – and one count of misdemeanor-level assault, the DoJ said.
“According to the evidence presented at trial, several hours into the flight, passengers approached a flight attendant to complain about Mornyang’s disruptive behaviour, which included flailing her arms and yelling obscenities and racial slurs,” the department’s press release said.
“When the flight attendant approached to assess the situation, Mornyang began to shout at the flight attendant and then slapped him across his face. The flight attendant attempted to restrain Mornyang until federal air marshals could assist.”
According to court documents obtained by the Australian Daily Telegraph and reported by nine.com.au, after being told to quieten down, Mornyang told the attendant “she did not care and that she is a strong black woman,” before accusing him of being racist “because he was not talking to any of the white passengers.”
“The federal air marshals were forced to stay with Mornyang in the rear galley of the plane for the remainder of the flight,” the press release continued. It said she was arrested on landing in Los Angeles.
- Getty/Phillip Chin
Mornyang, who maintains that she was asleep for the whole flight, said the alleged incident ended her modelling career.
“I boarded that flight on January 21st for what I thought was a life-changing opportunity,” she told told News Corp Australia, as reported by the Herald Sun.
“I had just been offered a modelling contract for three years and I was so excited. I couldn’t believe that it was finally happening.
“Just to wake up and be thrown into prison. I’ve never laid my hands on another human being. I don’t believe violence as someone who’s always been on the receiving end of it. I would rather hurt myself than another human being.
“This was a now or never modelling opportunity and I would not have done anything to ruin it.”
United Airlines, the DoJ, and Mornyang did not immediately responded to INSIDER’s requests for comment.