Aussie model’s move to have assault case thrown out
AN Australian model facing a potential 21-year jail sentence in the US for allegedly assaulting a flight attendant on a plane to Los Angeles has asked a Californian judge to toss her conviction.
Adau Akui Atem Mornyang will be sentenced in the US District Court in Los Angeles on June 24.
Ms Mornyang's US legal team told Judge Cormac Carney a jury convicted the model at a trial in March after prosecutors relied on "an inflammatory audiotape that purported to depict Ms Mornyang screaming racial slurs and obscenities".
"The government failed to lay any foundation for the audiotape containing racial slurs and obscenities," Mornyang's lawyers wrote in their motion for dismissal or a new trial.
"The government presented no witness who had ever heard the recording before, or who could confirm that it accurately captured the events, or even Ms Mornyang's voice."
The lawyers also argue Los Angeles was not the correct district to hold the trial.
Prosecutors rejected both arguments.
South Sudanese-born Ms Mornyang was convicted of a felony charge of interference with a United Airlines flight crew member and misdemeanour assault.
Melbourne-based Mornyang, 24, faces a statutory maximum sentence of 21 years in US federal prison.
Prosecutors said Ms Mornyang, during the January 21 Melbourne to LA flight, ordered "several alcoholic beverages".
Flight attendants cut her off from ordering more and about an hour later, "passengers approached the flight crew to complain about defendant's behaviour, which included yelling obscenities and racial slurs and flailing her arms".
Flight attendant Romeo Gutierrez attempted to calm Ms Mornyang down.
"Defendant did not calm down and instead escalated her aggressive behaviour and 'smacked' Mr Gutierrez," prosecutors wrote.
A federal air marshal on the flight intervened and escorted her to the back of the plane "where she was placed in handcuffs and continued to harass the people around her for the rest of the remaining five hours of the flight to Los Angeles".
Prosecutors said an audiotape played at Ms Mornyang's trial of the model's "coarse" and "explosive" language on the flight was authenticated by a witness familiar with Mornyang's voice.
"Thus, the witness was able to attest to the accuracy of the recording, provide context for the recording, and provide additional and independent testimony regarding defendant's other later conduct and words, which he described as far worse," prosecutors wrote.
Earlier this year Ms Mornyang denied she had attacked anyone and described the episode as "an ordeal" that she did not remember after having mixed prescription drugs with alcohol to sleep during the flight.
Even though passengers on that flight and other flight attendants said there was never a slap, the evidence was ignored and they decided to believe (the flight attendant)," she said in a text message.
"All I remember was waking up after sleeping for eight hours."
"I was so confused and begging and pleading for them to tell me what I did. I was ignored, I was in and out of consciousness, and was later locked up in federal prison still with no memory of what I was arrested for. This whole alleged slapping is a big shock to me and I cry every night wondering why I have no memory of it. How I could of done it while asleep."
"I was not intoxicated because I had only two glasses of wine during dinner service, requested a seat move and slept for what I believe to have been eight hours, just to wake up five hours and five minutes before landing to an arrest.
"Did I take my Prozac and oxycodone before the flight? Yes I did. But I was not drunk before boarding."
Ms Mornyang has enjoyed significant modelling success since moving to Australia as a refugee at the age of 10, including serving as a global campaign face for Sephora in 2016, a Miss World Victorian finalist in 2017 and Miss World Australia finalist and recently walked the runway at New York Fashion Week.
She said the incident had ruined her career.