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Bartender: Pilots ran up heavy bar tab hours before their flight

By Emanuella Grinberg
Court TV

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MIAMI, Florida (Court TV) -- To show the amount of beer consumed by two former pilots on the eve of a cross-country flight, prosecutors lined up 14 empty glasses on the witness stand Tuesday during the testimony of the bartender who served them.

Alvaro "Balo" Simpson, who works at Mr. Moe's sports bar in Miami, testified he served America West pilots Thomas Cloyd and Christopher Hughes several pints of Sierra Nevada from 10:30 p.m. to 4:15 a.m. -- before they were scheduled to pilot flight 556 to Phoenix at 10:38 a.m. on July 1, 2002.

The two men face up to five years in prison if convicted of operating an aircraft while intoxicated.

After the pilots went through a security checkpoint at Miami International Airport, screeners reported suspicions that they were impaired. The men failed a sobriety test after being removed from the cockpit and were arrested.

In a subsequent breathalyzer test, Cloyd blew a .091 and Hughes a .084. Florida's legal limit is .08.

Simpson testified he did not remember serving the two pilots all of the beers, but remembered that first officer Hughes paid the $122 bar tab after disputing it with Cloyd.

"How do you remember that?" prosecutor Hillah Katz asked.

"I always look for my tip," Simpson said.

On cross-examination, however, he testified that neither man got out of hand.

"Did they display any visible signs of intoxication?" Cloyd's attorney Donald Foodman asked.

"Not to the point to stop serving them," he said.

The jury of six men and one woman also saw several clips from Mr. Moe's surveillance cameras showing the pilots, dressed casually in shorts and T-shirts, shooting pool and saying good night to two colleagues who left them just before 12 a.m.

As the two defendants hugged and kissed their female colleagues in the video, Hughes turned and smiled at his wife, who was sitting next behind him in court.

The spouses of the two defendants and Cloyd's mother sit behind defense counsel, taking vigorous notes that they show to their husbands during breaks and recesses.

The defendants have been out on $7,500 bail since 2002.

Denise Boger, one of the women in the video, told jurors of her night out on June 30, 2002, with the two pilots and another flight attendant, all of whom were scheduled for the same flight the next morning.

Boger's testimony Tuesday morning established the timeline of events leading up to the night out and the effect the alcohol had on the pilots the morning after, right before authorities stopped the flight.

But the former America West flight attendant testified her personal knowledge of the drinking and apparent hangover signs the next day did not concern her enough to stop her from putting her own life into their hands.

The only timeframe unaccounted for in her testimony was the early morning hours of July 1, 2002, when they ran up the pricey bar tab.

Dressed in a white linen pantsuit, the witness showed jurors the 34-ounce beer mug she observed the pilots drinking Sierra Nevada drafts from as they shot rounds of pool on the eve of their 10:38 a.m. flight.

Boger testified that the evening of June 30, 2002, began with a few sips of complimentary champagne as the crew of two pilots and three flight attendants checked into the Mayfair Hotel in Coconut Grove, Florida.

From there, she said, she and another flight attendant accompanied "Chris and Tom" to nearby restaurant, Two to Tango, where the crew shared a bottle of wine and assorted appetizers.

They continued on to Mr. Moe's, which is also within walking distance of the hotel.

The pilots' bar tab was closed some four hours later and prosecutors say they returned to their hotel around 5:30 a.m.

The next morning, Boger testified she and the crew waited 20 minutes for Hughes, who "appeared like he'd just gotten out of bed" when he reported to the airport shuttle.

As they rode the shuttle, she testified she noticed Hughes' puffy red eyes, but would not state unequivocally whether she smelled alcohol on him.

"I may have been able to smell something on him, but I'm not sure now what it was," she said.

"How did Capt. Cloyd appear to you at that time?" Katz asked.

"Fine," she said.

She went on to describe Cloyd's altercation with security screeners over letting him pass through a checkpoint with a cup of coffee, which several airport employees testified to yesterday.

On cross-examination, she explained why she did not report the suspected scent of alcohol on Hughes.

"If I had thought it was something of detriment, yes I would have, but I'm not a specialized intoxication alcohol specialist," the witness said.

"It was of no concern to you?" Cloyd's attorney, Daniel Foodman, pressed.

"I don't think Chris had time to brush his teeth," she said.


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