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NJ man accused of causing emergency airplane landing in Charleston federally indicted

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John Yurkovich, 45, of New Jersey. File/Charleston County Sheriff's Office/Provided

A federal grand jury has formally indicted a New Jersey man accused of starting a fight that forced a Florida-bound airliner to make an emergency landing in Charleston last month. 

John Yurkovich Jr. faces one count of assault within special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, according to the indictment, which was filed on April 6. 

"This his entire incident is very uncharacteristic of John," Rose Mary Parham, his attorney, told The Post and Courier. "He is a loving husband and father and successful entrepreneur and businessman."

The 45-year-old Millstone Township, N.J., resident also faces one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. That charge is being handled in state court. 

Yurkovich had been flying from Newark, N.J., to Miami, but pilots made an unplanned landing at Charleston International Airport after a fight broke out in the cabin.

A passenger told police Yurkovich seemed agitated upon returning from the bathroom and took out pills from his carry-on bag. He began screaming and thrashing, according to an incident report, then punched a neighboring passenger and broke the man’s glasses.

Everyone involved declined hospital treatment.

A doctor on board gave Yurkovich a shot of Benadryl to subdue him, authorities said. By the time authorities boarded the plane, they found Yurkovich face down on the floor with a belt and zip ties binding his hands behind his back.

His shirt had been pulled over his head, according to an incident report, and one officer found about 1.5 grams of a white crystal substance in his pocket.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-323-9175. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

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