New York News
Passenger kicked off plane tells his side of story
NEW YORK (WABC) -- A choir minister is telling his side of the story after he was kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight.
He was accused of threatening to blow up the plane Monday, but he says he was just complaining about the airline's baggage fees.
Sam Aristil is a beloved minister in Washington Heights who's never been in trouble before Monday.
He was handcuffed, pulled off a plane and charged with two felonies based on a complaint of a fellow passenger.
"You flatly say, you never said, 'I'm going to blow up this plane?'" Investigative reporter Sarah Wallace asked.
"Never, I never said that," said Sam Aristil, accused of making threat.
But authorities claim 30-year-old Sam Aristil made a threat on a Spirit Airlines plane headed to Fort Lauderdale from La Guardia this past Monday while sitting with a married couple.
The husband reportedly complained that Aristil threatened to blow up the plane because he was upset at baggage fees.
"We were talking about the fees for the bags," Aristil said.
"Were you angry or agitated," Wallace asked.
"Not at all," Aristil said.
"Did you ever mention a bomb or anything that might be a threat?" Wallace asked.
"No," Aristil said.
Aristil, who's been a minister and choir director at the St. Luke AME church in Washington Heights for seven years, says he made two phone calls from the plane before it left the gate, speaking in Creole, his native language. "Maybe just my conversation made them uncomfortable," Aristil said.
"So they made it up?" Wallace asked.
"They made it up," Aristil said.
The husband apparently also complained that Aristil pulled a scarf over his head.
"Why pull the scarf up?" Wallace asked.
"I was sick and getting a cold," Aristil said.
He says he fell asleep.
"You wake up, and there are officers," Wallace said, "The next thing you know cops are standing in front of you with guns, and they cuffed you and you had no idea what was going on."
"I said, 'Guys please tell me what's going on,' it was embarrassing," Aristil said.
He spent 36 hours in jail before members of his church could raise the $10,000 bail.
The DA's office had asked for $150,000.
"We have an individual who's a minister, who deals with the public, whose reputation has been tainted," said Paul Martin, Aristil's attorney.
Aristil says his family heard his name on the news.
"I know they know I didn't do it but to have them see me, and think, this is my son," Aristil said.
The minister says even worse than missing Thanksgiving with his family in Florida is trying to explain what happened with that other passenger.
"I felt something about me made him uncomfortable probably because of my race, my language," Aristil said, "I just hope this man can find it in his heart to apologize because this is wrong, this is wrong."
It's not an unusual scarf.
He had it on when Eyewitness News met him at the church where his supporters are steadfast.
They bailed him out Tuesday night.
The DA's office had asked for $150,000 bond but a judge released him on $10,000.
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