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Tuesday
Jul262011

JetBlue Sued: Alleged Underwear Altercation Humiliates Malinda Knowles

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A financial consultant says she was kicked off her JetBlue flight after a supervisor demanded to know if she was wearing underwear, then allegedly stuck his walkie-talkie between her legs. Malinda Knowles, 27, is now suing JetBlue, the supervisor and the flight captain, seeking an unspecified amount for assault and battery, and emotional distress.

Knowles, 27, had boarded a JetBlue flight departing New York's LaGuardia Airport for West Palm Beach, Fla., where her family lives. She flies to Florida several times a year, she said.

That morning in July 2010, she left her home in Harlem at 4 a.m. to catch the 6 a.m. flight. She was wearing a pair of shorts, a large T-shirt (and yes, underwear), an outfit she says she selected, in part, because it was more than 90 degrees outside.

Everyone had boarded the plane, and Knowles was in her seat sipping orange juice when she said JetBlue supervisor Victor Rodriguez approached her, demanding to know "with a smirk" if she was wearing underwear.

"He just came up to me and asked me … basically to show him what I had on, which would have required me moving the tray table and pretty much opening my legs," she said. "I didn't feel comfortable doing that."

Knowles said she eventually lifted her tray table and then, Rodriguez -- who was holding a walkie-talkie -- allegedly "stuck the antennae in her crotch," between her legs, to see what she had on underneath her T-shirt, Knowles' attorney, Brian Dratch, told ABC News.

Knowles told ABC News she had never seen Rodriguez before, and had passed through all the security checkpoints at LaGuardia without any problem.

Rodriguez allegedly called Port Authority police and "had me escorted off of the flight in front of everyone," she said. They took her to the loading bridge, the passageway between the airport terminal and the plane, according to Knowles. The police soon observed, "Oh, she has shorts on," Knowles said.

Rodriguez, who is still working for JetBlue, declined to comment and referred ABC News to his lawyer, JetBlue attorney Michael Carbone, who also declined comment because of the pending litigation.

It's unclear, Dratch said, what Rodriguez's motive was, or even why he was on the plane. Dratch told ABC News that Rodriguez works at the ticket counter.

After she was questioned by Rodriguez in the loading bridge and showed the police her driver's license, she settled back into her seat. But Rodriguez allegedly returned another time, with the police.

"He said there was an issue with my shorts," Knowles said, explaining that at this point the plane had already been delayed at least half an hour. "Everyone [on the plane] was very upset, and very annoyed."

She said Rodriguez then told her "the captain doesn't want to fly you today and we need to remove you from the flight."

Next, police allegedly escorted her to the JetBlue ticket counter.

"Victor Rodriguez basically booked me on the next flight out," Knowles said. "He told me I wasn't complying with the rules. I asked him 'What rules?' and he refused to answer."

"While I was leaving the flight one of the passengers said I should definitely get a lawyer," Knowles said.

When her attorney first met with Knowles a few days after the incident occurred last July, he said he was "outraged."

"I couldn't believe that a supervisor -- and that's how he's classified in the report filed with the Port Authority Police department -- would confront Ms. Knowles regarding whether she was wearing underwear."

In the lawsuit Knowles is described as enduring "sustained shock, mental anguish and physical pain."

Dratch told ABC News he had not yet heard from JetBlue after serving the company with a copy of the complaint more than a week ago. JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Croyle declined to comment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio