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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 1, 2006

Man not guilty in airline incident

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

A man accused of threatening to kill a baby during a flight to Hawai'i last year and then charging the cockpit was found not guilty by a federal court jury yesterday.

Santiago Lol Tizol had been charged with interfering with an airliner's crew during a flight on Dec. 9. If convicted, Tizol, 37, had faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

But a jury deliberated for about three hours yesterday before acquitting Tizol of the charge. The trial began on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright.

Tizol, a native of Guatemala, said he was "gratified" with the verdict.

"I am satisfied and pleased with what they did," he said through an interpreter minutes after the verdict. "I didn't do anything."

Tizol was arrested soon after Northwest Flight 91 from Los Angeles arrived in Honolulu Dec. 9. Flight attendants told federal investigators that Tizol was acting strangely and was pacing the plane's aisle.

At one point Tizol was accused of saying he wanted to kill a baby on board the flight. He also was accused of rushing the cockpit and was subdued by four male passengers.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Matthew Winter said Tizol's actions on the flight were not deliberate and that he didn't intend on charging the cockpit or hurting anyone.

"There was a little paranoia that broke out on the plane and that things that occurred on the airplane led you to believe that something like this happened," Winter said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Shipley said he accepted the jury's verdict. He disagreed with the defense's assertion that Tizol was the victim of paranoia by his fellow passengers.

"That aspect of the defense's case wasn't that convincing, but I think probably the overriding concern that the jury may have had was simply the prospect that everything kind of snowballed from a mistake," Shipley said. "We have confidence in the jury system. We understand that the jury decides, and we're satisfied with the way it works."

Tizol said he plans to move to the Big Island to live with his brother and to work as a landscaper.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.