Shutesbury woman gets probation for plane fracas

  • Gavel and scales Creatas

Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2019 2:44:53 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Speaking at her sentencing in federal court Thursday, a distressed Lily Reske took long pauses between sentences as she apologized for drunkenly assaulting flight attendants on a plane that made an emergency landing in Colorado in 2017. 

“All of this seems like a terrifying nightmare, and I am shaking to wake up,” said Reske, of Shutesbury.  She had pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants and said she did not remember the incident. “But it is real, and I’m still shaking,” she said Thursday.

Reske, formerly known as Lily Wheeler, was sentenced by Judge Mark Mastroianni to one year of probation, a $1,000 fine and $10,000 in restitution to Spirit Airlines in partial accordance with a plea deal that differed only in the amount of the fine.

Passengers on an Aug. 4, 2017 flight from Boston to Las Vegas made an unscheduled stop in Denver after Reske, who took prescribed anxiety medication and drank before the flight, engaged in a physical and verbal argument with her also drunken fiance mid-flight, according to court proceedings and documents.

Flight attendants removed Reske from her seat when she demanded to be reunited with her fiance, Michael Reske, who is now her husband, according to court documents. Reske became physically aggressive with two flight attendants as she pushed one and kneed the other in the stomach. It took two flight attendants and four passengers to restrain Reske as the plane was diverted to Denver.

At the beginning of Reske’s sentencing, Mastroianni questioned the plea deal between the government and Reske because it did not call for incarceration. Mastroianni said Reske’s actions put passengers and other airborne planes in danger due to the emergency rerouting.

Luke Ryan, Reske’s defense attorney, had submitted to the court case law from similar crimes that resulted only in probation, but Mastroianni said he had “a difficult time agreeing with those courts.”

“I consider this offense very serious,” Mastroianni said.

Although Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Morgan made it clear that the government “would never suggest that this is not a serious case,” he said Reske had taken unequivocal responsibility for her actions. In court documents, Michael Reske said the airplane incident was “‘rock bottom’” for his wife, and that she has been sober ever since.

“She knew she did it, and she wanted to take responsibility right off the bat,” Morgan said in court.

Ryan said Reske had the “misguided thought” to self-medicate with her anxiety medication and alcohol to overcome a fear of flying. A history of separation anxiety may have caused Reske to lash out when taken away from her fiance, Ryan said.

Ryan said Reske was embarrassed by her behavior as it not only affected herself but also those who were on the plane. Not only did Reske get sober after the incident, but she also made moves to begin a career for herself, Ryan said.

Ryan said the incident was “out of character” for Reske, and that the consequences of a federal felony on her record will follow her for life.

“When you look at Ms. Reske, the woman who appears before you is dramatically different than the one on that flight,” Ryan said.

In her statement to the court before sentencing, Reske said the life she has now would have never been possible if she didn’t actively seek professional help for her anxiety and substance use.

“Fear has motivated me to be a stronger woman,” Reske said. “I will not let the mistakes of my past affect the person I want to be.”

“The woman I am today is the person I have dreamt about,” she added.

Before passing sentence, Mastroianni said Reske’s husband bore responsibility for the incident as he was also drunk and physically aggressive. But Mastroianni, who had floated the idea of imprisonment, said Reske had clearly made steps to better herself and that past litigation and the plea agreement did not call for such a severe punishment.

“You’re not the type of person who would want to hurt anyone,” Mastroianni said. “And I clearly, 100 percent agree with that.”

Michael Connors can be reached at 

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