Jury convicts Florida co-pilot of operating plane drunk

Federal jury convicts intoxicated pilot

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A co-pilot's drunken preparation to fly a plane from Traverse City's Cherry Capital Airport constituted operating the common carrier, a jury ruled.

Sean Michael Fitzgerald, 35, of Boca Raton, Florida was convicted on Friday after a four-day trial that Chief United State District Judge Robert J. Jonker presided over.

A Traverse City police sergeant found Fitzgerald wearing his headset in the cockpit of a private charter plane he was hired to co-pilot from Traverse City to Bedford, Massachusetts, on August 25. He was slated to co-pilot a private charter to Bedford, Massachusetts, however on the way to the airport and once there, witnesses saw "obvious" signs of intoxication.

Traverse City police responded and took Fitzgerald off the plane.

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The sergeant arrested Fitzgerald after determining he had a higher than 0.3 percent blood-alcohol content. Fitzgerald had told the sergeant he had not consumed alcohol since lunchtime the day before.

"Aircraft are complex machines and intoxicated operation poses a danger to passengers, the ground crew at the airport, and the public even before they begin to taxi", Acting U.S. Attorney Birge said in a press statement.

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The U.S. Attorney's Office did not provide a sentencing date.

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