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Vyvianna Quinonez: Woman who beat up Southwest flight attendant arrested for drunk driving

Vyvianna M Quinonez, 28, blamed the drunk driving incident on gastric bypass surgery and her reduced stomach's intolerance to alcohol
Vyvianna M Quinonez (L) assaulted Southwest Airlines flight attendant (R) before being arrested in an alleged drunk driving incident (Twitter)
Vyvianna M Quinonez (L) assaulted Southwest Airlines flight attendant (R) before being arrested in an alleged drunk driving incident (Twitter)

A woman who threw punches at and severely injured a Southwest Airlines flight attendant has reportedly been arrested in an alleged drunk driving incident while awaiting sentencing for attacking the flight crew member.

Vyvianna M Quinonez, 28, of Sacramento, blamed the drunk driving incident on gastric bypass surgery and her reduced stomach's intolerance to alcohol. However, prosecutors said she was a danger to society and ensured she was remanded in custody pending sentencing. Video footage of the flight attack showed Quinonez repeatedly beating a flight attendant with a closed fist on Flight 700 from Sacramento to San Diego on May 23, 2021. The altercation was stopped by a male passenger, who stepped in to protect the bloodied flight attendant


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According to court papers reviewed by Law&Crime, the incident led to a two-count federal criminal complaint against Quinonez -- "(1) assault resulting in serious bodily injury on an aircraft and (2) interference with flight crew members and attendants." The DOJ explained in a press release, “During the flight’s final descent, Quinonez was not wearing her facemask properly, unbuckled her seat belt, and pulled down her tray table—all in violation of federal rules and regulations. Quinonez began filming the flight attendant on her cellphone, and . . . she pushed the flight attendant. Around this time, another passenger began filming the interaction on her cellphone.” The flight attendant required considerable dental work to repair three of her teeth.


On December 22, 2021, Quinonez pleaded guilty to the charges and a sentencing hearing was scheduled on Friday, Friday, March 11, 2022. That hearing, however, was rescheduled after Quinonez violated the terms of her bond. US Magistrate Judge Mitchell D Dembin had agreed that Quinonez could remain free while her case proceeded. He ordered a $20,000 bond and several other conditions, including that the defendant could not “board any commercial airline flight while [her] case [was] pending,” and that she “must not violate federal, state, or local law during the period of release." A February 17, 2022 order stated that “Quinonez had met her burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that she posed neither a risk of flight nor a danger to the community. As a result, Quinonez was allowed to remain on bond (pursuant to the conditions originally set by Magistrate Judge Dembin) pending sentencing.”

However, Quinonez had another run-in with the law around that time. In January this year, a California Highway Patrol officer cited Quinonez for driving under the influence with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .08% or greater, and characterized the defendant's adjustment to supervision as "poor." The court immediately issued a no-bail bench warrant for her arrest. The February 17 order revealed that Quinonez was arrested on February 15, and arraigned before a judge the next day. Prosecutors asked for Quinonez to be remanded in custody “on the basis of danger to the community,” but Magistrate Judge Kendall Newman in the Eastern District of California allowed her to go home “on a full 24 hour a day curfew and Pretrial Services supervision.”

Prosecutors appealed the order in the Southern District -- where the original case was proceeding -- and explained that the alleged drunk driving incident took place just nine days after Quinonez was allowed to remain free pending sentencing. During the arrest, officers observed the defendant had red, watery eyes and they smelled a strong odor of alcohol before asking her how much she had to drink. Quinonez told them she had a couple of drinks, but the officers noted that her speech was slurred. 

Prosecutors continued, "Further, it appears that Defendant is not willing to accept responsibility for her actions. She claims that her high blood alcohol level is due to gastric bypass surgery. However, Defendant told pretrial services that her doctor informed her that 'if she drinks alcohol, her blood alcohol concentration may rise abnormally due to the small size of her stomach.'" They added, "Given this warning by her doctor, Defendant should have been especially careful about the possibility of driving while intoxicated. Yet, she showed a disregard for others on the road when she chose to drink and drive."

Judge Todd W Robinson of the Southern District then said Magistrate Judge Newman had applied the incorrect legal standard to the case, and therefore ordered Quinonez to “remain in custody pending sentencing in this matter." A joint motion by both the defense and prosecution sought to delay sentencing considering the defendant is locked up in another federal district. “Because the US Marshal has not transporter [sic] her to San Diego, defense counsel has been unable to prepare for sentencing,” the joint motion states. “Ms Quinonez and the government, therefore, here moves [sic] this Court to continue the Sentencing Hearing to May 13, 2022, a date and time acceptable to the government and the defense.” The hearing was ultimately set for May 27, 2022.