SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Ukrainian man who told authorities he had been drinking heavily for 50 days before trying to open an emergency exit on a Delta Air Lines flight has been let out of jail after seven months, and his family says it can explain why he was carrying 19 passports.
Anatoliy Baranovich was released on a long set of conditions after a court hearing Monday pending a new trial date of Dec. 3, said Melodie Rydach, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City.
Baranovich faces charges of damaging an aircraft, interfering with a flight crew, trying to bribe federal agents and resisting arrest. He pleaded not guilty in November.
When Baranovich's flight from Boston landed in Salt Lake City in October, he woke up, yelled in Russian that a wing of the plane was on fire, ran to the back of the aircraft and tried to open an emergency door, a FBI affidavit says.
Federal authorities have said they found 19 passports in Baranovich's luggage — evidence they cited to persuade a judge to hold him for months behind bars. They said 16 of the passports were issued for women in their 20s and 30s, and three for men. Some were heavily stamped for travel, while others showed little travel.
Yet authorities have not charged Baranovich for any offense involving passports. Nor have they revealed what their investigation determined about why Baranovich was carrying them.
Baranovich's son, Roman, told The Associated Press that all the passports were expired, some were for dead people, and had apparently been fished out of a trash bin outside a government office in Ukraine — and placed in his father's luggage without his knowledge.
Roman Baranovich said the trash bin contained around 400 expired passports, prompting a minor scandal in Ukraine when media outlets seized on the discovery.
Speaking from Portland, Ore., where his father has returned, Roman Baranovich said the family doesn't know who put the passports in his father's luggage. Anatoliy Baranovich learned he was carrying 19 of the passports only when agents at the Salt Lake City International Airport searched his luggage, his son said.
Anatoliy Baranovich speaks only Russian and declined interview requests, his son said.
The family's account could not be verified Wednesday. FBI spokeswoman Debbie Dujanovic Bertram said she was unable to immediately provide any information.
Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, appeared to have dropped their inquiry into the passports.
"The discussion about passports came up in the context of a detention hearing where we talking about flight risk," Rydalch wrote in an email Wednesday. "Anyone who appears to have access to a variety of travel documents would be a concern to us in that context. However, as you know, the indictment does not include charges related to the passports. We charged what we believe is appropriate given the evidence we have in the case. Our internal screening process is not something we can discuss."