UPDATE: The case against an Oahu mom accused of assaulting her child on a flight has been dropped. Samantha Watanabe was found guilty in 2015, but the conviction was later reversed by a different judge. The case could have been tried again, but we’ve learned that the prosecution asked for it to be dismissed. They tell us it’s partly because Watanabe already served the entire sentence. Judge Kevin Chang granted the dismissal on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017.
A federal jury Tuesday found Samantha Watanabe, 37, guilty of assaulting her 15-month old child while on board an Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to Honolulu on May 3, 2015.
Florence T. Nakakuni, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, said that according to evidence presented in court, Watanabe repeatedly hit her child in the face with a stuffed doll, causing her child’s head to snap back through its full range of motion. She hit her child’s face with an open hand and she slapped the child’s arm with unusual force, among other acts.
Passengers and flight attendants testified that they did not observe the child do anything to warrant that treatment.
Watanabe faces up to one year imprisonment when she is sentenced on March 15, 2016.
In an earlier news report, a passenger told the FBI that Watanabe stuck a wad of cash in the girl’s diaper, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI.
According to a court document, a law enforcement officer who was a passenger on the flight “also observed Watanabe pull bits of the child’s hair out and pinch the child several times while the child was crying.”
It appeared that Watanabe was under the influence of some type of central nervous system stimulant, the passenger told the FBI.
The law enforcement passenger asked the flight crew to confront Watanabe. When flight attendants confronted Watanabe, she told the child, “No one is hurting you, what’s the matter?” according to the complaint.
Another passenger told the FBI that “when the child cried, Watanabe began pinching the child then pulled out the child’s hair,” the complaint said. “Watanabe then held the hair out as if showing it to the child and threw it on the floor while the child cried.”
Whenever the child tried to touch her mother’s face, Watanabe slapped her hands and arms, the complaint said.