- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) - A 25-year-old Fort Worth man was found guilty Friday of interfering with a flight crew and forcing a Southwest Airlines plane to make an unscheduled landing.

After a four-day trial, a federal court jury in Amarillo deliberated less than three hours before returning a guilty verdict against Zachary Marshall Ziba. He could receive up to 20 years in prison and be fined up to $250,000 when sentenced on Aug. 14.

Ziba was aboard a Jan. 18 flight from Denver to Dallas when he became disruptive, intimidated a flight attendant and used profanities, prosecutors said. The crew diverted the plane to Amarillo, where Ziba was removed.

Ziba’s lawyer, Scott Palmer, said he planned to appeal. He said Ziba, a car salesman, was intoxicated and arguing with a friend but never threatened or touched the flight attendant who eventually asked the captain to divert the flight.

Palmer said the flight attendant never mentioned being intimidated until the trial, and the judge barred testimony from passengers who would have said there was no need for the emergency landing.

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