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Fed-up JetBlue attendant pleads guilty, avoids jail

NEW YORK — The fed-up flight attendant who waved goodbye to his career in a spectacular exit down an emergency chute made a soft landing in court Tuesday.

Steven Slater, 38, avoided jail under a plea bargain that requires him to undergo counseling and substance-abuse treatment for at least a year. He must also pay $10,000 in restitution to JetBlue.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Slater wasn’t just fed up with his job or angry at a passenger when he stormed off the plane. He said investigators believe Slater was drunk and suffering mental problems, though the prosecutor wouldn’t give specifics.

Slater spoke calmly as he pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and attempted criminal mischief. Afterward, a smiling, upbeat Slater said: “At the end of the day, I’m a grown-up and I must take responsibility for my actions.”

Slater admitted he pulled the emergency chute Aug. 9 on a flight from Pittsburgh after it landed at Kennedy Airport. He went on the public-address system, swore at a passenger who he claimed treated him rudely, grabbed a beer and slid down onto the tarmac. He had a bandage on his forehead, apparently after he got hit with a piece of luggage before takeoff.

Slater’s departure made him a folk hero to put-upon workers everywhere who have fantasized about quitting in a blaze of glory. He was a topic on TV shows, on the Internet and on the front pages of newspapers, with many cheering him for standing up to the often-inhospitable world of airline travel, and others accusing him of childish and dangerously reckless behavior.

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