SAN DIEGO – Federal prosecutors dropped charges against two of the six San Diego soccer players who were accused of disrupting a Chicago-bound flight late last month, forcing it to make an emergency landing in Texas.
In court documents obtained by KVII-TV, prosecutors filed a motion Thursday to dismiss charges against 21-year-old Ghazwan Asaad Shaba and 19-year-old Saiman Hermez. The motion was filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Frausto in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The documents do not state the reason for the dismissals.
The other four men facing charges are 20-year-old Jonathan Khalid Petras, 20-year-old Essa Solaga, 19-year-old Khalid Yohana and 23-year-old Wisam Imad Shaker.
The men, part of the San Diego Chaldean Soccer League, were flying from San Diego to Chicago on the night of Aug. 31. They were headed to the Assyrian American National Convention in Chicago. While aboard Southwest Flight No. 1522, the airline claims they began acting in a disorderly manner.
The pilots were forced to stop at Rick Husband International Airport in Amarillo, TX, where the men were detained and charged with one federal count each of interference with a flight crew and aiding and abetting. Six more members of the soccer team were also aboard the plane but were not arrested.
According to Southwest Airlines, the suspects were being "disorderly, and subsequently, refused to obey the instructions of the crew."
Prosecutors said the men refused to put their seat backs and tray tables up when asked and used profanity when a flight attendant was taking drink orders. When a flight attendant asked them to quiet down, they responded that they could be as loud as they want. When the men were denied alcohol, they “became aggressive by lunging forward at a flight attendant.”
At a preliminary hearing a few days after the incident, a judge granted their release from jail on $10,000 bail and allowed them to return home from San Diego, but refused to drop the charges. The men then drove back to Southern California.
Mark Arabo, president of the Neighborhood Market Association, a prominent leader in the San Diego Chaldean community and a spokesperson for the men, released the following statement Thursday afternoon.
"Today, the Federal government made the right decision, and took a proactive step against intolerance. We commend the federal government for acknowledging the issue as nothing more than what it is-- a few young men acting immature. Justice has been served for 2 of the individuals on Southwest flight 1522. We need to ensure that never again will Southwest Airlines terrorize young people for simply speaking another language. We fully expect, and will continue to support the rest of the young men throughout the remainder of their cases. And, we will stop at no lengths to protect any and all flyers from having to go through with the orchestrated pandemonium that Southwest Airlines put their passengers through. Our work will not stop."
The date for the next court hearing was not immediately confirmed.