A former American Airlines operations manager from Arlington was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison for attempting to arrange to have sex with a young girl and her mother while on a business trip last year to Pittsburgh.
Ray Howland, 57, was a supervisor at American’s system operations control center on Sept. 11, 2001, and received some of the first panicked calls from employees at Boston’s Logan Airport in reporting the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 11. The plane was the first of two that crashed into New York’s World Trade Center towers.
As part of a plea agreement on Wednesday, Howland will go to federal prison and be placed on 10 years probation when he is released, his attorney Frank Walker II of Pittsburgh said on Wednesday in a telephone interview.
“There was a lynch mob mentality at first, lots of outrage,” Walker said. “You forget who he was before his arrest. He was a good father, businessman and husband. He just happened to have made some bad choices.”
Walker said prosecutors were seeking a 19-year sentence against Howland, but the Pittsburgh attorney noted that his client did not have a criminal history and the federal judge received more than 30 letters of support from Howland’s family, friends, co-workers and church members.
According to ABC News, Howland's wife and children were in the courtroom Wednesday morning but didn't comment or testify. Howland, clad in an orange prison jumpsuit and athletic shoes, briefly whispered to them before sentencing.
Howland apologized to his family, friends and the court and told Senior U.S. District Judge Judge Gustave Diamond he is looking forward to putting the incident behind him, according to ABC News.
Howland pleaded guilty in June to the federal interstate child-sex charge of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity.
Howland was arrested near Pittsburgh Airport in June 2015 by an undercover state attorney general’s agent who posed online as a woman with a 10-year-old daughter. He was later released.
Howland used an iPad and cellphone to send explicit messages after posting an ad online that he was “looking for a family or a couple of girls” for sex while in town on business, according to federal agents in court documents.
Walker said Howland has undergone counseling since his arrest in June 2015.
On Sept. 11, 2001, transcripts show how Howland told other American employees not to disclose the hijacking minutes before the Boeing 767 hit the World Trade Center.
“We don’t want this getting out,” Howland said, according to the transcripts. “We’re aware of the situation. We’re dealing with it right now. So let us deal with it.”
American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, has said Howland is no longer an employee. Howland had been making monthly business trips to Pittsburgh facilitating American’s merger with US Airways when he was arrested.
Howland has been in federal custody since June after pleading guilty.