Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lamons: Flight Attendant Arsonist Gets 271 months

In U.S. v. Lamons, No. 06-14427 (July 5, 2008), the Court affirmed convictions of an airline flight attendant for setting a fire to an airplane while in flight. The Court also affirmed a 271 months’ sentence.
The Court rejected the argument that the prosecution violated the Confrontation Clause when it introduced in evidence a compact disc of data collected from telephone calls. The Court held that no Confrontation Clause violation could occur when this type of evidence is admitted, because it is generated by a machine, not a human being who can be called as a witness and confronted. Challenges to the reliability of this type of evidence must arise under the authentication requirements of the Rules of Evidence.
The Court also rejected Lamons’ claim that the trial court violated Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) when it admitted evidence of a prior incident, for which Lamons was also convicted, in which he made a phone call, just before the departure of a flight, falsely warning that everyone on the flight "was going to die." The Court noted that this prior conviction resembled the fire-setting crime, in that both were committed by Lamons in his capacity as a flight attendant, and designed to target commercial aviation.
Finally, the Court rejected Lamons’ challenge to being sentenced on the basis of a "endangering the safety of . . . an aircraft." The Court found that the fire Lamons set partially burned and melted an HVAC hose, and that a fire is, as the pilot of the airplane testified, "one of the worse [sic] things that can happen on an aircraft."