Male Passenger Faces up to Life in Prison for Sexual Assault of Seatmate

Aug 20, 2018

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A male Spirit Airlines passenger has been convicted of sexual abuse for undressing and fondling a woman flying next to him on an overnight flight from Las Vegas to Detroit in January.

A federal jury convicted 35-year-old Prabhu Ramamoorthy on Thursday of sexual abuse on board an aircraft for digitally penetrating the victim, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan says. He could face up to a lifetime in prison after he’s sentenced on December 12. Because he’s on a US work visa, Ramamoorthy would also face deportation after his sentence is served, CNN reports. However, the criminal complaint did not identify his home country.

The victim, a 22-year-old woman, says she fell asleep on the flight leaning against the window when she suddenly woke up to the passenger next to her with his hand down her pants and both her pants and shirt unbuttoned and the passenger next to her, Ramamoorthy, fondling her, the criminal complaint obtained by CNN states. The woman immediately told a flight attendant what happened.

In a written statement included with the complaint, Ramamoorthy said he was in a “deep sleep” and that “through my knowledge I didn’t [sic] anything to her.” Then he said in an interview with an FBI agent that he had touched the passenger’s breasts over her clothes and “might have” undone the victim’s bra and unzipped her pants and fondled her.

The jury deliberated for less than four hours before convicting Ramamoorthy.

“Everyone has the right to be secure and safe when they travel on airplanes,” US Attorney Matthew Schneider said. “We will not tolerate the behavior of anyone who takes advantage of victims who are in a vulnerable position, and we are glad the jury agreed. We appreciate the victim in this case for her courage to speak out.”
Reports of in-flight sexual assault is increasing at an “alarming rate,” the FBI said in June. Sexual misconduct on board commercial aircraft has increased 66% from 2014 to 2017, the FBI says, but officials are not sure why. Many cases go unreported, but in 2017 the FBI opened 63 in-flight sexual assault investigations.
Mid-air sexual abuse is a felony that can land a perpetrator in prison for 10 years up to a life sentence. Over the last year, women passengers have sued Delta and United for not apprehending passengers who allegedly assaulted them during flights with the airlines.
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