The two instructors at IASCO flight school in Redding are back on the job after being arrested, accused of kidnaping student Tianshu Shi.
Attorney John Runfola said his client Jonathan McConkey and IASCO employee Kelsie Hoser are innocent and that the incident was not a kidnaping because there were no weapons or restraints involved.
He said Mr. Shi was picked up at his home and transported in an unlocked van driven by Hoser who weighs about 90 pounds.
“It certainly doesn't sound like a kidnaping to me,” Runfola said. “And I'm hopeful that it won't sound like a kidnaping to a jury or law enforcement.”
Runfola said he has documents that show Shi's visa had expired May 25 and that McConkey and Hoser were simply trying to send him home because he was no longer enrolled in the training program at the flight school.
But this isn't the first time the school has faced charges of wrongdoing.
IASCO is also battling an unrelated civil lawsuit filed in a Sacramento federal court last year by a former IASCO certified flight instructor.
CLICK HERE to read the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges the school violated FAA rules by forcing instructors to work long hours and teach students who "lacked the ability to read, speak, write and understand the English language."
The school also had other civil suits filed in Shasta County that were settled out of court going back as early as 1992.
Runfola said he has documents that Homeland Security already had an order for Shi to be removed from the country and what his client did was more akin to a citizen's arrest
“There's just such hysteria that when government is not responding,” Runfola said. “People are stepping in to fill the gap”
He said he's confident his client will be exonerated once he submits the documents he has in his possession.
“What I'm more hopeful of is that the district attorney's office and that local law enforcement will sort through the documents I'll be sending and see that it's more than a three-minute audio,” Runfola said.
Shi was unavailable for comment.
A person close to him said he's not wanting to speak out at this time.
McConkey and Hoser are scheduled to appear in Shasta County Court June 29.