American Airlines blames girl, 9, who ‘should have known’ flight attendant planted hidden cameras: court docs

A 9-year-old girl “should have known” there was a camera hidden under the toilet seat by an American Airlines flight attendant, the airline’s lawyers said in court filings.

The employee, Estes Carter Thompson III, 37, allegedly filmed multiple little girls between the ages of 7 and 14 during a seven-month span last year, federal prosecutors said.

One of the victims’ families, who sued the airline and Thompson, were “outraged” and “angry” when the airline’s lawyers blamed the girl, the family’s lawyer, Paul Llewellyn, told Fox News Digital.

“I cannot even envision a world where it is appropriate to point to a 9-year-old and say, ‘It’s not our fault. This is your fault. You should have known that you were being filmed,'” said Llewellyn, who Vigorously shook his head no when asked if he faced this defense before. “No, never.”

Estes Carter Thompson III is facing multiple federal charges after he allegedly hid a camera under an American Airlines toilet seat and recorded girls as young as 7.

American Airlines’ lawyers said in a court filing, “Any injuries or illnesses alleged to have been sustained by plaintiff, Mary Doe, were proximately caused by plaintiff’s own fault and negligence, were proximately caused by Plaintiff’s use of the compromised lavatory, which she knew or should have known contained a visible and illuminated recording device.”

Llewellyn said the family “was absolutely appalled” after reading this defense.

She was one of four alleged victims – ages 7, 9, 11 and 14. One of the victims spotted a phone’s camera flash underneath the toilet seat, which was covered by tape and a sign saying, “SEAT BROKEN,” according to the civil lawsuit.

She took a picture of it and showed it to her mom, the lawsuit says, which angered her parents.

Her dad made a beeline for the airline’s flight attendants and yelled, “What the hell just happened in the first-class bathroom with my daughter?” while holding the picture of the phone under the toilet seat.

The phone American Airlines flight attendant Estes Carter Thompson III allegedly used to record girls in the bathroom was taped under the toilet seat.

In light of multiple news reports and backlash of victim blaming, American Airlines walked back the lawyers’ defense in a “groveling” public statement, as the family’s lawyer said, and seemed to distance itself from the defense team.

“Our outside legal counsel retained with our insurance company made an error in this filing,” American Airlines said. “The included defense is not representative of our airline, and we have directed it to be amended this morning.

“We do not believe this child is at fault, and we take the allegations involving a former team member very seriously. Our core mission is to care for people – and the foundation of that is the safety and security of our customers and team.”

Llewellyn read the airline’s statement released Wednesday morning, “but the bell cannot be unrung.”

There is a federal criminal case against Thompson, which focuses on the 14-year-old who found the hidden phone.

Llewellyn filed a civil case in Texas Supreme Court on behalf of the 9-year-old’s family, who learned from federal investigators months after the flight that their daughter’s face and explicit images were on Thompson’s phone, the lawsuit alleges.

The family was on a January 2023 flight to Disneyland when the young girl was unknowingly exposed.

“What began as a memorable family trip has become an inescapable nightmare,” the civil lawsuit says. “That nightmare could have been prevented by the airline.”

Since the young survivor learned what happened, she has suffered from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including depression, anxiety, insomnia and nightmares, the civil lawsuit says.

“This emotional distress has had fundamental impact on her interpersonal relationships, her schooling and her ability to function in the world,” according to the legal action.

Paul Llewellyn, a lawyer who represents a 9-year-old girl and her family who were victimized by an American Airlines flight attendant, said he was “outraged” after the airline blamed the child for not knowing there was a hidden camera in the bathroom .

And Llewellyn told the airline’s defense strategy to say it was the girl’s fault re-traumatized her.

“They (American Airlines) should never have adopted this defense in the first place,” Llewellyn said. “One media outlet described it as a groveling statement, and I share that view.”

Another one of Thompson’s alleged victims – the 14-year-old girl – has been suffering similar PTSD symptoms, according to the federal indictment.

The criminal complaint is about the allegations involving the teenager who found the hidden phone.

She’s been “jumpy, nervous and fearful” when talking to other people ever since her September 2023 flight from Charlotte to Boston, when the disturbing allegations came to light.

“She is also consistently worried about being in public by herself. For example, when she runs outside for exercise, she insists on carrying a self-defense ring that has a small blade,” the criminal complaint alleges.

An American Airlines plane lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in November 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.

Meanwhile, the accused flight attendant, Thompson, was indicted last month on federal charges of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of images of child sexual abuse depicting a prepubescent minor.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges last week.

He was initially arrested in January 2024 in Virginia, and has been in federal custody since then.

Prosecutors allegedly found hundreds of explicit images of artificial intelligence-generated child pornography on his iCloud account, as well as the images of the victims he alleged recorded during the flight, according to court documents.

Thompson was “immediately withheld from service” and hasn’t worked for the airline since the phone was discovered.

If convicted of attempted sexual exploitation of children, he faces a mandatory 15 to 30 years in prison. Possessing images of sexual abuse of a prepubescent minor carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Both charges also provide for at least five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution.

Thompson is due back in court on July 1.

Fox News Digital’s Stepheny Price and Bonny Chu contributed to this report.

Original article source: American Airlines blames girl, 9, who ‘should have known’ flight attendant planted hidden cameras: court docs