SALT LAKE CITY — A man who allegedly carried a knife onto an airplane and threatened a passenger and police is a "distinguished" lawyer who had stopped taking his medications for mental illness, his defense attorney said Thursday.
David Alan Anderson, 60, faces charges of having a dangerous weapon on an aircraft and retaliation against a federal law enforcement officer by threat of murder, both felonies. At a detention hearing, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer ordered the Salt Lake man to remain in jail while he undergoes a psychiatric evaluation.
Prosecutor Michael Kennedy said Anderson has had seven run-ins with the law the past 14 months, including a scuffle at a restaurant, a road-rage incident in which a knife was found in his car and an attempt to jump off a balcony at the Little America hotel after being evicted from a room.
"We are very concerned that if he is released, he will pose a danger to the community," Kennedy said.
Shortly after taking his seat on a Delta Air Lines flight from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas Sunday, Anderson tried to "claim" the armrest from the passenger next to him and threatened to slit the man's throat, according to a federal complaint.
Before takeoff, the flight crew called police who searched Anderson's carry-on bag and found a Gerber folding knife with a 3 ½-inch blade, the complaint says.
After being taken into custody, according to the complaint, Anderson made numerous profane threats to police and FBI agents including, "It's a shotgun in the chest," "I'll pull your eyeballs out" and "It will give me a lot of pleasure to see you again, but you won't see me, bucko."
Anderson regrets what happened and when taken in context, it isn't as serious as what federal prosecutors have presented, said defense attorney Steve Killpack.
"What's important here is none of these threats were acted upon," he said.
In arguing for Anderson's release, Killpack described him as a retired lawyer who had a "distinguished career" at the Salt Lake firm Parsons Behle. He said he has family in the area and is not a flight risk.
Anderson has seen a social worker for mental health problems the past eight years, he said. He stopped taken medication for bipolar disorder two years ago and recently stopped taking his anti-anxiety pills.
"I ran out and couldn't renew the prescription," Anderson told the judge.
Killpack said Anderson is willing to seek treatment. "A lot of this could be solved if he could just get back on his medications," he said.
Noting Anderson's "unusual" behavior the past 14 months, Nuffer said he's not satisfied that Anderson wouldn't be a danger in the community. The judge will hold another hearing after the mental health evaluation in four weeks.