LOS ANGELES -- Perhaps no group of Americans has been subject to a greater increase in racial profiling over the last two decades than those of Middle Eastern descent. When it comes to air travel, those prejudices are even more acute.
But when American corporations condone -- and engage in -- such practices, the damage inflicted on the victims can last a lifetime.
Such was the experience for one United States citizen, whose racial profiling at the hands of Delta Air Lines not only left him humiliated and hospitalized, it resulted in the loss of his passport, on the no-fly list and probation, facing federal charges in another state.
Ultimately, a jury found this man not guilty. And beginning this week in a Central District of California courtroom, attorney Zein Obagi, Jr. of Obagi Law Group will fight to ensure that Delta faces the consequences for its actions, and learns that no human deserves the treatment endured by one unfortunate customer.
In Bandary v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., USDC CD Cal Case No. 517-cv-01065, Mr. Obagi and his team will show how the actions of the flight crew put an innocent man in cuffs and left him injured, humiliated and facing federal charges. What's more, these behaviors arose from the crew's assumptions about a man born in the Middle East -- assumptions they made before ever interacting with him based on his skin, hair and eye color, and his frequent need to use the restroom due to his disability.
Mr. Bandary raised in Egypt. Though he earned an accounting degree at Cairo University and began working for Kuwaiti Airlines early in his adult life, as a gay man living in the Middle East and having physical disabilities, Mr. Bandary always lived in fear.
In 1992, after being beaten, tortured and fired from his job because of his sexual orientation, Mr. Bandary escaped to the United States. Mr. Bandary was able to live as an openly gay man in his new home, and in 1998 became a U.S. citizen. He had found his land of opportunity and developed his love for the United States.
But Mr. Bandary’s experience before coming to the U.S. had left him frail. He suffered from a condition that, combined with the physical and emotional torment Mr. Bandary experienced before coming to the U.S., left him frail and suffering from a variety of ailments. He lost 50 pounds within three years of his arrival. He had been classified as disabled since 2004 due to chronic diarrhea that cause him to frequent the restrooms during waking hours.
After traveling with his friend -- who has bladder cancer and Parkinson's disease, and for whom Mr. Bandary is the primary caregiver -- to Argentina, Mr. Bandary and his friend boarded a Delta flight in Buenos Aires in May 2015. The final destination was Mr. Bandary's home near Palm Springs, Calif., with layovers in Atlanta and Salt Lake City.
Almost immediately upon boarding the plane at the Atlanta stopover – even after he had proceeded through immigration and security screening for a second time in the United States – Mr. Bandary was labeled a "needy" passenger by the flight crew. Because flight attendants were annoyed with his trips to the bathroom, they him denied food and water he needed to take with his medication, leaving him with an upset stomach and in greater need of the restroom.
Ultimately, the crew refused Mr. Bandary entrance to the restroom, causing him to soil himself. Rather than showing compassion, the crew continued to profile Mr. Bandary, even enlisting passengers in helping to intimidate him into getting back in his seat.
Eventually, the crew enlisted the help of an armed federal agent on board the flight, who dislocated Mr. Bandary's shoulder while forcing him into plastic handcuffs, all the while with both the agent and the crew physically assaulted Mr. Bandary.
Yet amazingly, the hell Mr. Bandary ultimately endured was just beginning.
He was removed from the plane forcibly by law enforcement in Salt Lake City, called a "mentally disturbed passenger" by the crew. He was handcuffed to a gurney and taken to a hospital where, as a result of what Delta reported, he was forced to undergo an involuntary psychological examination.
Delta destroyed Mr. Bandary's luggage, publicly shamed him, banned him from the airline, and refused to take him to his final destination. Instead, Mr. Bandary drove 10 hours with his companion back to California. Thereafter, Mr. Bandary was charged with federal crimes, resulting in the seizure of his passport for 20 months and rendering him unable to continue receiving medical care in Argentina.
Despite living in California, Mr. Bandary stood trial in Salt Lake City. But it was at this trial where some justice was finally served.
At the criminal trial, Delta crew members acknowledged Mr. Bandary's skin color, eyes and face played a role in their judgment of him, as well as his frequent trips to the bathroom -- though they did not take the time to ask Mr. Bandary why he had to so frequently use the bathroom. One passenger, an off-duty pilot for Jet Blue, even told the crew that, in his opinion, Mr. Bandary was a terrorist.
Once all sides were heard, the verdict was unanimous. Mr. Bandary was found not guilty of any crime in a U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City. He was guilty only of looking Middle Eastern on a plane.
The pain Mr. Bandary endured, simply because of the way he looked, is something no person deserves. American corporations who allow their employees to engage in racial profiling must be held accountable for the damage their practices inflict on people, and beginning this week, Obagi Law intends to do just that.Questions or comments directed at Obagi Law Group, P.C. may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or made via telephone to (424) 284-2401.