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Woman detained after causing disturbance on flight to Atlanta, APD says

According to APD, an "unruly passenger" caused the incident on a Delta Air Lines flight from Tampa to Atlanta on Dec. 23.

ATLANTA — A disturbance on a flight from Tampa to Atlanta led to a woman being taken into custody last Thursday, according to the Atlanta Police Department. 

APD said an "unruly passenger" caused the incident on Delta Air Lines flight #2790 from Tampa to Atlanta on December 23. 

A video from ATL Uncensored appears to show the fight on the plane between two unmasked passengers. The argument escalated and at one point the woman appears to hit the man sitting in his seat.

According to APD, the disturbance happened while the plane was in the air. Passengers and Delta employees were injured during the disturbance, APD said.

After arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson, officers met the flight at their gate. After talking with employees and passengers, the woman was taken into custody.

FBI agents also responded and took over after that, according to APD.

APD have identified the passenger they detained as Patricia Cornwall. The viral video shows a woman's mask below her chin as she yells, "Put your (expletive) mask on!" at a male passenger, who appears to have a bottle of water in his hand.

"You can't make this stuff up. It is something that is just unbelievable," former Atlanta prosecutor Darryl Cohen said. 

The video shows the woman telling the man to, "Stand the (expletive) up!" He tells her, "Sit down, Karen! Karen sit down." The woman yells back, "Sit down, (expletive), and he yells back, "(Expletive). No, you're the (expletive)." The woman then tells the man to, "mask up!"

She orders the flight attendants to make him put a mask on, and the man responds that he's eating and drinking. The woman appears to slap the man.

Flight attendants attempt to hold the woman back. The man tells her, "You got your mask down (expletive)," to which she responds, "I will put my mask on when you put your mask on!"

"It's almost comical, except that it's reality," federal defense attorney Tom Church said.

The FBI is investigating and hasn't announced any charges. We asked our legal experts what charges Cornwall could face.

"She could be charged with a felony by interfering with the lawful duties of not one, but two, I think maybe three flight attendants because they had to restrain her and continually ask her to stop," Cohen said. "She is potentially facing both misdemeanor and felony charges."

"She might also face criminal charges for assault and maybe battery," Church said. "My understanding is she punched him, scratched him, and spit on him. I think each of those individually can be a criminal charge, a criminal count."

A federal mandate is in place in the United States requiring airline passengers to wear masks unless they're eating or drinking. Our experts said major consequences are in place for those who refuse to.

"Airlines like Delta, American, United, JetBlue, for the most part will ban someone from flying that airline ever again, so that moment of glory, that moment of stupidity will cost them forever," Cohen said. 

"The TSA will impose fines, they have the authority to impose fines on people who aren't wearing masks, in the airplane in the airport, or wherever they have jurisdiction," Church said.

A spokesperson from Delta Air Lines sent 11Alive's Dawn White this statement:

Flight 2790 from Tampa to Atlanta was met by law enforcement after an unruly customer disturbance during flight. Situations like these are rare for the vast majority of our customers and Delta has zero tolerance for unruly behavior at our airports and aboard our aircraft.”

The Transportation Security Administration is cracking down on disturbances on flights. Recently, TSA announced passengers will face fines for acting out and could also lose their pre-check privileges.

"The DOJ, the Department of Justice, has announced that they're going to pursue more aggressively these instances of egregious passenger conduct. What I anticipate is we'll be seeing a lot more viral videos and the criminal prosecutions that will follow," Church said.

A report from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that as of December 21, there have been 5,779 reports of unruly passengers and 4,156 mask-related incidents reported this year.

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