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Delta pilot gets 10 months in jail for showing up to flight drunk with half-empty bottle of Jägermeister

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A Delta pilot who showed up drunk to a flight has been sentenced to 10 months in jail by a Scottish court. 

Lawrence Russell Jr. pled guilty to reporting for duty as a pilot while exceeding the prescribed blood alcohol limit, according to a sentencing statement released by the Judiciary of Scotland. Such statements are released at a judge’s discretion. 

Russell, an American citizen from Georgia, was scheduled to fly a Boeing 767 aircraft from Edinburgh International Airport to New York City’s JFK International Airport in June 2023. He arrived at the airport at 9:15 a.m. local time, about 90 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart. 

When Russell, 63, sent his bag through an X-ray screener, it was rejected because there were too many liquids inside. When the bag was manually searched, it was found to contain two bottles of Jägermeister. One bottle was open and “just under half full,” according to the sentencing statement. Police were called because Russell was wearing his pilot’s uniform, including a lanyard and crew pass identifying him as a Delta Airlines employee. 

Russell told police he was a captain with Delta, and said that he had not been drinking recently. Russell told police the bottles were from the previous evening. He was asked to give a breath sample, and “failed,” the sentencing statement said. The BBC reported that Russell’s breath test showed levels “twice the legal alcohol limit for pilots.” The legal alcohol limit for pilots is 0.04, or half the limit for those operating a vehicle, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots may also not have consumed alcohol within eight hours of flying under FAA rules. 

Russell was arrested, and a blood sample was taken, again showing alcohol in his system. Meanwhile, the flight to New York was cancelled, forcing the airline to make alternate arrangements for hundreds of passengers.  

Sheriff Alison Stirling said a prison sentence was necessary both as a punishment and for the “protection of the public,” noting that Russell will be able to be re-employed as a pilot after completing an Aviation Medical Certificate. 

The BBC reported that the court heard that Russell had two previous convictions for driving while under the influence of alcohol in the United States. 

Russell has since been treated for alcoholism, according to the BBC, and the sentencing statement noted that he had been diagnosed with Severe Alcohol Use Disorder and received treatment at a Georgia facility. He has not consumed alcohol for 277 days, his lawyer said, according to the BBC. Because of this treatment, Stirling reduced his sentence from 15 months to 10 months. 

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