A federal judge gave three years probation Tuesday to a Salt Lake City attorney who allegedly threatened a fellow passenger and brought a folding knife in his carry-on bag on a flight between Utah and Las Vegas.
U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball said nothing would be gained by sending David Alan Anderson to prison, agreeing with attorneys and findings of a pre-sentence report that the altercation was due to a "meds issue."
Anderson pleaded guilty in January to one count of having a dangerous weapon on an aircraft and faced a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years. Two other charges were dismissed.
In September 2011, Anderson began elbowing a passenger next to him in an attempt to claim the armrest between them as their plane prepared to leave Salt Lake City, according to a court document. After the passenger moved away, Anderson placed his foot on the passenger's leg. The passenger asked Anderson to move over. Anderson then allegedly said, "If I had a knife, I would slit your throat right now."
The passenger left the seat and alerted flight attendants, who observed Anderson reaching into his bag. The attendants called police, who removed Anderson, 61, from the airplane. He denied having a weapon or making threatening statements. After police found a folding knife with a 3.5-inch blade in his carry-on bag, Anderson also threatened them.
Attorney Steven Killpack, who represented Anderson, said at a previous hearing that his client acted out after going several days without prescribed anxiety medication. Killpack also said Anderson had forgotten the knife was in his bag.
On Tuesday, Killpack said that Anderson has "done better every day" since the incident progress reflected in the "good" pre-sentencing report and now has "excellent insight" to the circumstances that led to his behavior. Killpack also said Anderson has strong support from his family.
Michael Kennedy, an assistant U.S. attorney, agreed with the probation recommendation, saying it was clear that mental health issues, rather than "a criminal attitude," led to the altercation.
"We felt we needed to get him into the system so he didn't become a danger to himself or the community," said Kennedy, adding that Anderson had fully cooperated.
Kimball ordered Anderson to continue taking his medication and participating in mental health treatment; he barred Anderson from possessing firearms and hunting knives, and ordered him to pay a $150 special assessment fee. Anderson's probation sentence may be reduced after a year, if warranted.
Anderson worked for Parson, Behle & Latimer until his license was suspended after the incident; he has not yet been re-admitted to the Utah State Bar.