Joe Rickey Hundley, the Idaho man who slapped a crying toddler in the face after demanding the child’s mother “shut that nigger baby up” was sentenced to eight months in federal prison yesterday—two months longer than the six-month prison sentence prosecutors asked for when the man pled guilty to the assault.
Hundley, 61, reached a plea agreement in October and reserved the right to argue for a lighter sentence for simple assault, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman imposed an even higher sentence than prosecutors recommended in part because of Hundley’s criminal history; Hundley served probation after pleading guilty to drunk fighting with his girlfriend in 2007. In addition to the prison sentence, Baverman ordered Hundley to pay Jessica Bennett, the mother of the child he slapped, restitution of $105 and to pay a fine of $2,500 to the government. Baverman also ordered Hundley to serve a year of supervised release, undergo alcohol abuse treatment and anger management counseling, and perform 120 hours of community service, preferably in a homeless shelter.
Details of Hundley’s airplane madness are here, but here’s a quick primer: Hundley, who lived in Idaho at the time, was on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta on Feb. 8, 2013, seated next to Bennett and her then-19-month-old-son, Jonah, when the baby, who was seated in his mom’s lap, started crying. Hundley leaned over and told Bennet to “shut that nigger baby up,” according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent who investigated the incident. When Bennett asked Hundley what he said, Hundley leaned into Bennett and said it again, then slapped the child across his face, leaving a scratch below his right eye, the FBI statement says.
Hundley was on his way to Atlanta to take his only son off life-support after an insulin overdose. Though he claims he’d had only one drink, Bennett said he reeked of alcohol when he boarded the flight and was sloppy drunk after consuming several drinks during the plane ride.
“I made the most terrible day in my life much worse for me and for others,” Hundley told the judge at his sentencing in an Atlanta federal court. Noting that he had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every day since March, was undergoing 15 hours of counseling a week and had been helping others deal with alcohol problems, Hundley’s lawyer argued that he would be better served by house arrest or a halfway house.
But the judge wasn’t having it. “You cannot assault another individual, regardless of how sad or upset, or even how intoxicated or sick, you are,” Baverman said, according to an Associated Press story on the sentencing hearing.
Baverman’s sentencing came after Bennett gave an emotional statement to the court, saying her bright and curious son morphed into a guarded and scared little boy because of Hundley’s attack. She also said she suffers fear, anxiety and depression because of the incident. “It is my belief that Mr. Hundley is a bully,” Bennett told the judge. “He saw an easy mark in a woman with a young child to unleash his bigotry.” Later, after the sentencing, she said she didn’t think Hundley’s apology was genuine, but added that she was satisfied with the sentence.
Here at MyBrownBaby, we’re applauding not only the sentence but our friend Stacey Patton, an author, journalist and founder of the anti-child violence website, Spare The Kids, who, brought attention to Hundley’s assault on little Jonah and his mom. Stacey inspired us to think more deeply about the incident when she related it to the deaths of black children—Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin—hurt and killed for no other reason than… being.
The persistent assault on and devaluation of black childhood is so rife. What this thread shows is that WE are willing to kill for our children. But the fact that this old pilgrim was not charged speaks volumes. White people can slap our babies as if they are insensate. They can shoot our boys for playing loud music. This is some plantation/Jim Crow madness.
Stacey’s petition, “Send Joe Rickey Hundley To Prison,” on Change.org, called for the U.S. District Court of Atlanta, led by U.S. Chief Judge Julie E. Carnes, to charge Hundley with a hate crime for using a racial epithet when he slapped little Jonah, and to ship him to prison to “send a strong message that says it is a serious crime to assaut a child.” Stacey’s petition also asks Delta Airlines president Edward Bastian to ban Hundley from flying Delta Airlines, and to put his name on a national flying registry so that “no other children are put in harm’s way by being seated next to him.”
Personally, I think Hundley got off easy (he’d faced a year in prison and a $100,000 fine). But his sentence does send send the powerful message that we can no longer let grown men spit racial epithets at and slap black babies, toddlers, children and teens and their mothers and let it slide like it’s 1914. I’m sure there are some brothers at the federal prison who will be happy to remind Hundley of these things.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.