Crime & Courts

Former Alaska mental health program CEO pleads guilty to assaulting Delta attendant on Anchorage flight

The former CEO of Alaska Child & Family, an organization that provides mental health treatment for youths, was recently sentenced on federal charges he assaulted a Delta flight attendant on an Anchorage-bound flight at the end of last month.

Denis McCarville, 70, was arrested on Jan. 29 when the flight landed in Anchorage. It had departed from Minneapolis earlier that day, according to an affidavit written by a FBI special agent.

McCarville left his position at Alaska Child & Family in December 2018, according to a statement from the organization. Alaska Child & Family is a Christian-based organization that provides mental health services to “troubled youth,” according to their website.

McCarville told investigators he works with an agency in Fairbanks and described himself as a social worker. A statement Monday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska said he lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

During the flight last month, McCarville became upset with a flight attendant because the tray table in his armrest was broken and she was unable to fix it, the affidavit said. He told her he wanted his flight reimbursed and the flight attendant told him he’d have to talk with representatives after they landed, according to the affidavit.

McCarville then “jabbed” the flight attendant in her side as she turned to assist another passenger, the affidavit said. She later told investigators that she’d nearly been knocked over when McCarville hit her.

When the flight attendant confronted McCarville and told him not to touch her, he swore at her and told her, “I’m a Gold Medallion; I can do whatever I want,” according to the affidavit.

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He swore again at the flight attendant and the passenger seated next to him, who had tried to help the flight attendant, the affidavit said.

During the rest of the flight, McCarville stuck his foot out in the aisle whenever that flight attendant would walk by, according to the affidavit. McCarville also refused to let out the window-seat passenger, who later said they had to climb over McCarville to use the bathroom, it said.

McCarville, who initially denied the assault during an interview with investigators, was charged in federal court with assault within maritime and territorial jurisdiction. He spent four days in custody before he was released on his own recognizance Thursday, according to court records.

On Friday, McCarville pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time served, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alaska.

McCarville joined Alaska Child & Family in 2011, according to prior reports. At that time, he was also described as having served for 22 years as CEO of Uta Halee/Cooper Village Residential Treatment Centers in Omaha and was also on the faculty of the Georgetown Institute and the University of Nebraska Omaha.

In a statement emailed Tuesday, Alaska Child & Family said the organization was aware of the federal assault charge and that McCarville hadn’t been affiliated with the agency since leaving in 2018.

“Alaska Child & Family had and has nothing to do with the recent incident involving Mr. McCarville,” the statement said, thanking supporters for continuing to back the organization’s “critical” work to support youth through a range of mental health services.

McCarville did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.