Unruly passenger fined $10,000

Israeli man was drunk, said he would shoot flight attendant

Published on January 12, 2016
Michael Lavarov of Isreal is lead into court Monday morning.
Rosie Mullaley/The Telegram

An Israeli man who held his fingers in the shape of a gun and told a flight attendant he would shoot her has been fined $10,000 for his unruly behaviour on board a flight diverted to St. John's.

Michael Lavarov was sentenced today in provincial court.

"I'm very sorry from the bottom of my heart, to all the people," Lavarov said in a heavy Russian accent.

The 32-year-old had a Russian translator in attendance in the court room. However, when he got the opportunity to address the court, he spoke on his own.

He said he's never been in trouble with the law before. He repeatedly apologized and said he doesn't remember most of what happened.

That's because he was under the influence of alcohol and medication.

He got so out of hand during the Austria Airlines flight 87, en route to New York, it had to be diverted to St. John's.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was dispatched to St. John's International Airport on Sunday at 12:18 p.m. and took Lavarov into custody.

Officers spoke to witnesses on the flight to find out what happened.

According to the facts of the case read in court today, Lavarov was drinking throughout the flight and had taken six Ativan, which he said had been prescribed by his doctor.

He began shouting outside the bathroom and demanded more alcohol, but was refused by flight attendants. Instead, he was escorted back to his seat.

He then pointed his fingers in the shape of a gun at a flight attendant and said "I shoot you."

Lavarov was screaming and flailing around in his seat and would not calm down. He threatened several passengers around him.

He got so out of control, passengers and crew members had to restrain him.

He was also sedated by a doctor, a passenger, who gave him Valium.

Lavarov pleaded guilty to a charge under the Aeronautics Act — intentionally interfering with the duties of crew members by engaging in behaviour that endangered safety and security of the aircraft.

Criminal Code charges of uttering threats and causing a disturbance were withdrawn by the Crown in exchange for the guilty plea.

The maximum punishment for the charge is a $25,000 fine with 18 months in jail.

But Judge Mike Madden went along with the $10,000 fine, giving Lavarov six months to pay. The judge went along with an agreed sentencing recommendation by Crown prosecutor Mark Stares and duty counsel Catherine Boyde.

"This is an all-too-frequent occurrence in Newfoundland," Stares said.

Stares said he didn't seek restitution because the Crown did not receive any information from the airline about expenses incurred by the diversion.

However, he said, the unplanned landing did, no doubt, cost the airline money.

He said it was also an inconvenience for passengers and for the airline.

"Plus the fear for all involved," Stares said.

Boyde pointed out that Lavarov — a permanent resident of the United States — has no criminal record. And while he has no memory of the incident, he doesn't dispute it happened. She said he deeply regrets what he did.

"It's been a scary experience for him, being in jail in a strange country," said Boyde.  

She said Lavarov will likely also have to pay for a plane ticket to leave St. John's.

Lavarov nodded his head and thanked the judge before being escorted out of the courtroom.

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