Michigan federal authorities arrested a 34-year-old man after a woman said he sexually assaulted her on a night flight when she fell asleep next to him.
The man, Prabhu Ramamoorthy, whom the prosecutors said was an Indian national life in the United States on a temporary visa, was charged with aggravated sexual abuse and withheld without bail after a federal court appearance in Michigan Thursday.
Ramamoorthy is accused of abusing a 22-year-old man sitting in a window seat next to him on a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas that landed in Detroit on January 3 early, even when his wife was at his side .
The victim told investigators that he woke up to find his pants and shirt unbuttoned and the man's hand inside his pants.
Federal prosecutor Amanda Jawad said that Ramamoorthy sat between his wife and the victim. He stopped after the victim woke up, and the woman went to the back of the plane to report the incident to a stewardess, the criminal complaint said.
Two flight attendants told federal investigators that the victim was crying and that his shirt was unbuttoned and his pants were unbuttoned when he reported the alleged attack around 5:30 am, 40 minutes before the plane landed, said Jawad. The assistants kept the woman in the back of the plane and offered her a different seat, and while talking to the victim, Ramamoorthy's wife came to the back of the plane to see what was happening, Jawad said.
Ramamoorthy was arrested after the plane landed, according to court documents.
He told the agents in a written statement that he had taken a pill and had fallen into a deep sleep, said Jawad, and that he had done nothing more than learn from his wife that the 22-year-old woman was sleeping on her knees.
His wife told the officers a similar story, and said they had called the stewardesses to try to change seats.
But the "flight attendants" "They did not report that someone asked them to change seats besides the victim," Jawad said.
Both Ramamoorthy and his wife gave longer statements indicating that the pill Ramamoorthy had taken was "pure Tylenol".
Ramamoorthy gave "conflicting reports," about what happened w "The victim said Jawad
Judge Judge Steven Whalen, who said it was a very unusual case, ordered Ramamoorthy to remain awaiting trial then That Jawad argued successfully that it was a flight risk and a potential danger to others … he The prosecutor said that Ramamoorthy's wife, who also lived in the United States on a temporary visa, would not make him an adequate custodian to He
"It seems that she is colluding with the accused to cover up her actions or is completely oblivious to what she did," argued Jawad. "What makes this offense particularly heinous and the defendant even more dangerous to the community is the fact that it took place on an airplane. He was shameless enough to do it basically in public, with his wife where anyone could have seen him. "
Ramamoorthy's lawyer, Richard O & Neil, had offered to deliver his client's passport, and said that Ramamoorthy had worked as a project manager in a technology group for about two and a half years.
There have been no accusations that his behavior was inappropriate prior to this incident, "said O & # 39; Neill." It's difficult for me with some of these allegations, but that's what a trial is for. "
O & # 39; Neill did not return a request for comment on Thursday.
Stephen Schuler, a spokesperson for Spirit, said he was cooperating with the law enforcement in the incident.
Sexual harassment and abuse on airplanes is a problem in Much of the report was not reported, but frequent for passengers, according to a Seattle Times report, according to a survey conducted by the Association of Flight Attendants that the report cited, one in five attendees said they had dealt with allegations of sexual erosion committed by passengers. The survey found that the police contacted each other less than half the time.
The number of federal investigations on sexual assaults on board of airlines has increased slowly, to more than 60 in 2017 at the beginning of December, of 57 in 2016 and 40 the previous year.