10 Exchange Place, Suite 622
SLC, Utah 84111
DATE: October 17, 2016
TO: Brian Frees
CLIENT: Atef Bandary
RE: Gary Effertz Telephone Interview
Gary Effertz, telephone (760) 567-9115, was interviewed on 10/17/16, regarding Atef Bandary’s case, and called on 10/31/16, to give additional information he had recalled and documented. The following is a compilation of Gary’s observations regarding events as he and Atef flew from Atlanta, Georgia, to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Gary said Atef was definitely racially profiled, and that it frequently happens when the two travel. Atef has had his baggage checked about half the time, and Gary believes he did that day as well. He noted the airline employees were scared and over-reacting from the very beginning, and they were not intent on helping Atef or giving him the benefit of the doubt.
On the flight “it got worse and worse” about three fourths into the trip and then “it got horrible” before the plane landed. The flight was the second leg of their trip home from Argentina. Gary said Atef was not bothering anyone on the plane.
Gary estimated the tension that resulted was 100% racially motivated, due to Atef’s skin color, accent, originally being from Egypt, and that he has an unusual name. The flight manifest was checked while Gary and Atef were on the flight, which is typically not the case for passengers. Gary heard two of the flight attendants discussing the manifest and something along the lines of ‘this is the person.’
Food was a problem that got out-of-hand. Atef needs to eat timely for his health ailments. His issues could become more serious if he doesn’t eat, and they did not have enough time between their flights to get food for Atef. They ran out of what they’d brought on the plane and Atef requested food from a flight attendant.
Atef was told by the attendants they did not have the kind of food he needed. He required soft food, due to recently having had teeth pulled (the primary reason for their trip to Argentina was for Atef to receive dental care at a reasonable price). The flight attendants tried to give Atef a sandwich, but it didn’t work; he attempted to eat a little, without much success.
Atef is a walker, and finds it painful to sit for long periods at a time; moving around helps him. Gary also has problems sitting, and said he got up as many times as Atef did, but not for as long of time periods. He and Atef were seated close to one another, but about three rows apart and one over. When they passed each other while walking they’d high five each other.
Atef also has both urination and bowel issues. He has diarrhea, which comes on quickly and urgently. He was trying to go to the restroom and was told by a flight attendant that he needed to get back to his seat. Things got tense at that point.
Gary said Atef was the only one who was told he needed to return to his seat, that he was also up at that time and nobody requested he do the same. He does not believe at that point the request had been made for all passengers to go to their seats.
Atef indicated he needed to go to the bathroom, Gary said he believes it was Lucy who responded, ‘You’ve got to go sit down.’ Atef explained ‘I have to go or I’ll wet my pants.’ He was very close to the restroom door; Gary believes he was next in line to enter. Atef was talking nervously, and “was about as uncomfortable as you could be,” said Gary.
Some passengers on the plane created a shield like they thought something was going to happen. Gary noted there were several big guys who positioned themselves and that the attendants had previously approached them individually before they got up from their seats.
“They came from the middle, we were towards the back right,” said Gary. He noted he was certain the men were not trying to access the restroom, it was clear they were there because of Atef, and they positioned themselves before voices were ever raised. Some went back to their seats. Gary believes one of the men was the co-pilot of the plane.
Gary saw people come towards Atef before he was cuffed, and saw the attendant take the cuffs out. She started the argument with Atef. Gary said “I guarantee he did not try to hit anybody” and that due to the situation, Atef was merely trying to attempt to protect himself, and did not touch anyone. His only resistance was to argue with the attendant. Gary said it was clear that Atef needed to use the bathroom, which he expressed.
Gary said “they were going to cuff Atef no matter what, even though they knew he wasn’t a threat.” His impression is there was a lot of poking going on by the flight attendants during the incident, but he can’t recall specifically where the pokes were directed on Atef.
Gary inquired, ‘What are you doing, he didn’t do anything, what’s the problem?” and ‘What’s going on here?’ Gary was approximately two or three feet from Atef and asked that they let Atef alone.
Gary said the flight attendant appeared to be very eager to do something about Atef’s predicament. He stated he’s not saying she relished cuffing Atef, but she appeared to want to do something.
“They put handcuffs on and they couldn’t do it right, so they had to do it again. Gary said the first set of cuffs had a real problem. He did not see Atef hit anyone, and stated Atef would never deliberately hurt or swing at anyone, he is a big believer in karma.
“He’s a little guy and doesn’t fight, he’s skinny and 122 pounds; he doesn’t go around starting fights,” stated Gary. He said Atef is only 5’8” or 5’9” tall and that he is very soft-spoken
Atef fell or was knocked down twice during the fracas, and called out ‘Gary, Gary, Gary, help!’ There was nothing for him to resist with when he was handcuffed, he was approached from the side, and was as surprised as anyone when it happened. He responded by saying ouch.
“If it were me standing there nothing would have happened,” said Gary.
Gary could see by the stress on Atef’s face he was physically injured, they were hurting him, and he was nearly in tears. Additionally, his pants had fallen down and nobody assisted him in pulling them up.
Gary said he is not so sure the flight attendant got hurt in the incident. She did not react as if she had been and one of the attendants clearly said, ‘At least nobody got hurt’ after Atef was cuffed and seated.
Gary said he believes Joy was misled and that he is not calling her a liar, but he is sure Atef did not hit her. He also said Atef would never intentionally spit on anyone, and if he did it was completely unintentional while he was talking, since he’d recently had his front teeth pulled.
Gary was just a few feet away and observed the entire situation. He asked the crew to let Atef sit with him. They eventually cooled down and agreed to do so.
Gary said there was a big difference between how Atef was treated and that he was treated better than Atef during the entire flight. He believes the flight attendants thought Atef was a terrorist and that they locked down the cabin of the plane. He heard someone say the word terrorist, but is not sure who it was.
Although he hasn’t been treated, Atef has had problems with his shoulders and wrists since his arrest, and his hand was red and scraped the day of the incident.
Gary did not hear Atef yell out to call his lawyer or for help, Atef was not yelling. Gary described himself as an unemotional person, adding it is his way of coping. He said it disturbs him that ordinary people can be put in fear of their freedom.
Atef is a caregiver for both Gary and their friend Boyd Strout, who has heart problems and a pace maker. Gary has cancer of the bladder and had a knee replacement. He is currently going through chemotherapy.
In closing, Gary said, “This is the worst treatment I’ve ever seen.” He added after the incident he and Atef had problems trying to fly out and had to drive home from Utah to California. He said the experience has been real hell for him and Atef.
About six months after the flight two female FBI agents showed up at Gary and Atef’s house. They seemed friendly and were invited into the home. Gary and Atef were under the impression something may have happened in their neighborhood, they had no idea Atef was facing charges until he was given the indictment. One of the agents called back about three months later, to ask follow-up questions. At that point she was told to contact Atef’s attorney.
“I can’t stress enough that they overreacted, I have a few years under my belt and I’ve never seen people act like that,” said Gary.