NEW YORK -- A JetBlue flight attendant who argued with a passenger on a plane before making a grand exit down its emergency slide has been released on bail in New York.
A spokesman for the city's jails confirms Steven Slater was released Tuesday night. Slater was picked up by a minivan and driven away.
Department of Correction spokesman Stephen Morello doesn't have details on who posted the $2,500 bail.
Slater has been charged with felonies.. but this week, has found himself elevated to folk hero status by thousands of people who shrug off allegations he endangered others and praise him for his take-this-job-and-shove-it moment.
A defense attorney says Slater didn't put anyone in danger on the Pittsburgh-to-New York flight. Prosecutors say the JetBlue flight attendant flipped out over a fight with an agitated traveler Monday, cursing over the intercom before grabbing some beer from the plane's galley and deploying the emergency slide at Kennedy Airport.
Slater, whose father was an airline pilot, wore a slight smile Tuesday as he was led into a state court in Queens to be arraigned on charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing, counts that carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. Slater, a 38-year-old airline veteran who lives steps from the Queens beach a few miles from the airport, had been flying long enough to see much of the gleam of the air travel experience tarnished by frayed nerves, rising fees, plummeting airline profits and packed cabins.
"One by one all of these niceties have been removed from the customer experience. I think subconsciously, it's causing passengers to be very angry," said Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer Guides and daughter of Arthur Frommer. "There's an us-versus-them mentality."
Sentiment online appeared to fall in Slater's court. By early Tuesday afternoon, more than 20,000 people had declared themselves supporters of Slater on Facebook, and the number was growing by thousands every hour. At least one fan set up a legal fund on his behalf.
"Overwhelmingly people said it should have been the passenger who was ejected from the plane," said George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com, speaking about response to his site's blog on the incident. "I've never seen such an outpouring of support for a flight attendant."
Slater's attorney, Howard Turman, said his client had been drawn into a fight between two female passengers over space in the overhead bins as the Pittsburgh-to-New York flight was awaiting takeoff. Somehow, Slater was hit in the head, Turman said.
After JetBlue Flight 1052 landed in New York, one of the women who had been asked to gate-check her bag was enraged that it wasn't immediately available, Turman said.
"The woman was outraged and cursed him out a great deal," Turman said. "At some point, I think he just wanted to avoid conflict with her."
That's when he deployed the slide, Turman said. A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the airport, said Slater took at least one beer from the plane galley on his way out.
"Those of you who have shown dignity and respect these last 20 years, thanks for a great ride," Slater said over the plane's loudspeaker, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said Slater's actions could have been deadly if ground crew workers had been hit by the emergency slide, which deploys with a force of 3,000 pounds per square inch. Turman said Slater had opened the hatch and made sure no one was in the slide's path before deploying it.
Passenger Phil Catelinet said he heard Slater's profanity-laced announcement over the public address system before he left the plane. He said Slater ended by saying, "I've had it." He described the announcement as "the most interesting part of the day to that point" but didn't see Slater use the exit slide or grab the beer.
It wasn't until he saw Slater on an airport train and overheard him talking about the escapade that he put it together.