A former Salt Lake City lawyer who allegedly threatened a person aboard a flight from Utah to Las Vegas over an armrest and leg space, pleaded guilty on Thursday in U.S. District Court to having a dangerous weapon on an aircraft.
David Alan Anderson, 60, pleaded guilty to the count, indicating he should have known the Gerber folding knife was in his carry on bag.
He faces a maximum of 10 years in a federal prison when he is April 9 by Judge Dale Kimball.
Defense attorney Steven Killpack said Anderson did not know the knife was in his bag and that Anderson had no intention to break the law. As part of the plea deal the court dismissed two counts of intimidation and retaliation against a federal officer.
On Sept. 18, while on Delta Air Lines Flight 2478 in seat 5A, Anderson began elbowing the passenger in seat 5B in an attempt to “claim” the armrest between the two, according to a court complaint. When the passenger inched away, Anderson placed his foot on the passenger’s leg, the complaint states.
The passenger alerted flight attendants after Anderson allegedly told him, “If I had a knife, I would slit your throat right now.”
Salt Lake City police later discovered the knife, which has a 3.5-inch-long blade, in Anderson’s bag, according to the complaint. Anderson allegedly threatened officers too.
At a previous hearing, Killpack said his client’s lack of medication for anxiety and a possible bipolar disorder is what spurred Anderson to act out on the airplane and threaten police officers who intervened. Anderson previously told a judge that two days before the flight he was not able to refill a prescription for anxiety medication.
Anderson has been out of custody under the condition that he obtains mental health treatment, takes his medication and undergoes drug and alcohol testing regularly.
Killpack said Thursday the plea deal was an excellent resolution. He commended Anderson for being fully compliant with his treatment.
Anderson, whose license to practice law has been suspended, had worked for the firm Parsons, Behle and Latimer, where he had a distinguished career, Killpack said.