NY Daily News: The former Jet Blue flight attendant whose boozed-up slide down an emergency chute turned him into a working class hero got a standing ovation from a Queens judge Wednesday for graduating from a court-ordered treatment program.
Supreme Court Judge Marcia Hirsch sentenced Steven Slater to one year's probation on an attempted criminal mischief charge.
Hirsch held up her part of the deal reached a year ago, sparing Slater jail time because he successfully completed mental health counseling, including drug and alcohol treatment.
"So, Mr. Slater you're leaving us today?," Hirsch said before stepping off the bench to hand Slater his diploma as the courtroom erupted in cheers. "I'm wishing you good luck in the future."
Slater, 38, still has to pay back his former employer $10,000 in restitution for the cost of the chute. He was facing as much as seven years in prison. He's knocked 35 pounds off a waistline ridiculed by late-night TV hosts after he deployed an emergency chute on a Kennedy Airport runway in August 2010 and scampered home.
Slater's Belle Harbor, Queens home was destroyed in Hurricane Irene so he's been spending much of his time in his boyhood home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. following the death of his mother.
"I'm trying to clean it up a bit," Slater said. "I want it to be a legacy to my late parents. They were never able to maintain it like they liked."
Slater says he turned down five offers to star in a TV reality show based on his life. Instead, he's penning a memoir about his 20 years in the airline industry.
"I'm really enjoying the walk down memory lane," Slater said. "It was absolutely wonderful. I miss those days immensely. But I miss very much what it was, not what it is."
Slater said he made just $9,700 in his last year at JetBlue -- less than he did when he started out 20 years before. His said his book will be a tribute of sorts to overworked, underpaid flight attendants trying to make it in a post- 9/11 economy.
"I was one person who had a bad day and perhaps acted inappropriately but I think it resonated with other people," he said.
These days he only flies US Airways and can't help but pitch in during cross-country treks by picking up trash left behind by passengers.
"I've been a divisive character in the airline industry but 95% of the crews are behind me," Slater said.
He bikes, swims and hikes when he's in California. "I feel like I'm in a much better place," Slater said. "I have control over my life...I never wanted to be a flash in the pan. That was one moment that was not emblematic of who I am."