A 34-year-old Indian-origin man was arrested by federal authorities in Michigan after a woman co-passenger complained of being sexually assaulted by him after falling asleep on the flight.
Prabhu Ramamoorthy, allegedly groped the 22-year-old seated next to him on a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas which landed in Detroit early on January 3, the Washington Post reported.
The victim claimed that ‘she woke up to find her pants and shirt unbuttoned and the man's hand inside her pants,’ while his wife sat next to him.
Ramamoorthy, an Indian national living in US was charged with aggravated sexual abuse and held without bail after being arrested when the flight landed.
Ramamoorthy and his wife are living on a temporary visa, thereby disqualifying the latter as suitable custodian, according to federal prosecutor, Amanda Jawad.
She said Ramamoorthy was seated between his wife and the victim and continued assaulting her until she woke up and went to report the incident to flight attendants.
The victim was crying and appeared befuddled with her clothes undone, when she reported the incident about 40 minutes before the plane was due to land, two flight attendants stated. Ramamoorthy’s wife had at this point walked up to the back of the plane to inquire into the incident, the attendants added.
In a written statement, Ramamoorthy claimed that he had taken a pill and fallen asleep. He rubbished the victim’s claims, saying he had learnt from his wife that the woman was ‘sleeping on his knees.’
Magistrate Judge Steven Whalen said, "It seems that she's either colluding with the defendant to cover up his actions or she's completely oblivious to what he did," Jawad argued. "What makes this offense particularly egregious and the defendant even more of a danger to the community is the fact that it took place on an airplane. He was brazen enough to do this basically in public, next to his wife where anyone could have seen him," calling the incident a "very unusual case."
He ordered Ramamoorthy to be held pending trial following the prosecutor’s argument that Ramamoorthy was a flight risk and a potential danger to others around him.
The prosecutor, Amanda Jawad claimed that Ramanmoorthy had given ‘conflicting statements’ saying, ‘both Ramamoorthy and his wife gave lengthier statements later indicating that the pill Ramamoorthy had taken was "plain Tylenol."’
Ramamoorthy’s wife told officials, ‘they had called the flight attendants to try to change seats. But the "flight attendants did not report that anyone asked them to change seats other than the victim," Jawad said.
Ramamoorthy has been working as a project manager at a technology group for about two and a half years. His lawyer, Richard O’Neill offered to turn in Ramamoorthy’s passport and said, "There's been no allegations from anywhere that his behaviour has ever been inappropriate prior to this incident."
According to a report by the Seattle Times, sexual harassment and abuse on airplanes is a largely unreported but prevalent issue for passengers....