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Man arrested for yoga airplane altercation pleads guilty


    Hyongtae Pae stands outside the federal courthouse in Honolulu today, after pleading guilty to interfering with a flight crew. Authorities say he became violent after wanting to do yoga instead of sit in his seat during a flight from Honolulu to Tokyo last month.

A tourist accused of becoming violent because he couldn’t do yoga on a plane pleaded guilty today to interfering with a flight crew.

As part of a plea deal, Hyongtae Pae is expected to be sentenced to time served, which was about 12 days, and to pay about $43,600 in restitution to United Airlines.

Pae was headed home to South Korea after a Hawaii vacation to celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary when his actions last month forced the pilot to turn the Tokyo-bound plane around.

According to court records, he didn’t want to sit in his seat during the meal service, so he went to the back of the plane to do yoga and meditate. Authorities say he refused to return to his seat, threatened crew members and passengers and shoved his wife.

Through an interpreter, Pae told the judge in Korean he acknowledges he “caused others to become fearful” and that “it is correct that they were trying to subdue me and I resisted.”

Pae tried to bite and head-butt two U.S. military members who was passengers on the flight trying to restrain him, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren Ching.

He hadn’t been able to sleep in 11 days and felt “excited,” Pae told authorities after he was arrested.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang previously allowed Pae to be released, but prevented him from returning home.

On Thursday, Pae’s attorney, Jin Tae “JT” Kim, asked the judge to revoke the release so that Pae can return to the Honolulu Federal Detention Center. Pae has run out of money to continue staying in Honolulu and can’t afford to see a doctor to refill medication, which is running out, Kim explained.

Chang denied the request and asked that Pae work with court officials to figure out an alternative to incarceration.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 28, but officials are working to expedite the hearing so that Pae can return home sooner.

Medication has improved Pae’s mental state and he’s well-rested, Kim said.

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