A Brooklyn jury ordered Delta Airlines to pay $759,000 in damages to a security guard who was arrested after a nefarious baggage handler planted cocaine in his suitcase.
"I must give praise and thanks to God!" a beaming Roger Levans said outside Brooklyn Federal Court Thursday, after the jury deliberated only two hours and found the airline was negligent.
When he was stopped in Kennedy Airport back in January 2011 after a Delta flight from Guyana, Levans told Customs officers he was bringing back "cooked rabbit.” He was arrested after officers found three bricks of cocaine alongside the food in his suitcase.
The security guard spent one day in jail and was booted from his job at Yankees Stadium.
But while Levans was free on bail, the feds determined that his bag was indeed tampered with after he had checked his luggage.
A corrupt baggage handler apparently tied a ribbon to the suitcase containing the illicit drugs so it would be recognized by an accomplice in New York City, according to court papers.
Levans’ security guard license was eventually restored, but he did not get back his gig at Yankees Stadium. Instead, his employer assigned him to a lower-paying post at a construction site.
"In all my life, I never had a handcuff on my wrist or spent a day in jail until this happened," Levans said. "It was an ordeal."
The food he was bringing back to his family was seized and never returned. "The rabbit got away," he said.
Delta's lawyer Michael Crowley had argued to the jury that the airline was not responsible for whoever put the drugs in Levans' bag. He said the airline will appeal the verdict.
"When you go on a plane, passengers play by the rules to ensure it is safe, but Delta was trying to say it didn't have to play by the rules," said Levans' lawyer Caitlin McNaughton.