Woman pleads ‘very guilty’ in assault

Posted May 21, 2009, at 8:12 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Siberian-born woman who mixed prescription drugs and wine before drinking liquid hand soap and attacking flight attendants didn’t just plead guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court.

“I plead very guilty,” said Galina Rusanova, 54, of London in her pronounced native accent.

Rusanova pleaded guilty to three counts of assault on three flight attendants on April 29 and was sentenced to time served, or 22 days in jail. She admitted pushing a purser, kicking one flight attendant and biting the ankle of another. In a plea agreement with prosecutors, the more serious charge of interference with a flight crew was dropped.

It’s expected she will be escorted back to London in two or three days by U.S. immigration officials.

A naturalized citizen of Great Britain, Rusanova wept often during her 40-minute appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk.

“Please believe me, it was a mistake,” Rusanova told the judge. “If I had imagined the result would be so bad and so dramatic, I never would have mixed pills and wine. I’m sorry and ashamed. This is so embarrassing at my age.

“I never could have imagined this would happen,” she continued. “I went to Los Angeles looking for happiness, and now I’m here. I’ve been punished enough. Don’t punish me more, please.”

Rusanova, who lives on government disability support in London, went to Los Angeles to meet a man with whom she had been communicating on the Internet. Her fear of flying apparently led her to mix pills and wine, according to court documents.

She does not remember what happened but does not dispute that prosecutors could prove their case against her, her attorney, Matthew Erickson of Brewer, told the judge.

Rusanova told Kravchuk that she suffered from severe depression and had been without her regular medication while being held without bail at the Somerset County Jail in Skowhegan since her arrest.

She told the judge a short version of her life story. Her father, Rusanova said, was murdered in 1970 when she was 16. She went to work in a factory to help support her sister and mother, who died of a heart attack a few years later.

Rusanova did not say how she came to work in theater and radio in Russia, the career described on her Web site. She also published children’s books there before moving to London in the late 1980s and becoming a British citizen.

About seven years ago, Rusanova took up painting. Her Web site showcases her portraits of people and wildlife, but she told Kravchuk on Thursday that she had not painted in more than two years, since the death of her sister.

Rusanova also said that while she has been in jail in Maine, her dog died in London while in the care of a neighbor.

Kravchuck, who is involved in an exchange program with judges in Russia, spoke to Rusanova in her native language at the end of the hearing.

“Good luck and good-bye,” the judge said.

“Thank you very much,” a surprised Rusanova replied.

Ordinarily, a person in Rusanova’s situation would be entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge over her removal. The British woman, however, waived that right when she signed her visa application under a pilot program the U.S. recently implemented, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney James McCarthy, who prosecuted the case.

Rusanova faced a maximum of six months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 on each of the assault charges. She would have faced up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the interference charge if it had not been dropped.

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