A Detroit-area man was found guilty of sexually abusing a woman on an airplane while he was sitting next his wife.
Prabhu Ramamoorthy, 35, was arrested on Jan. 3 for the incident, and he was convicted on Thursday, according to a news release by the Eastern District of Michigan U.S. Attorney’s Office. Ramamoorthy, who is not a citizen and is in the U.S. on a work visa, faces up to life in prison if convicted. Whatever his sentence, he'll be deported after he serves it.
Ramamoorthy was in the middle seat on a late-night Spirit Airlines flight to Detroit from Las Vegas, with the 22-year-old victim in the window seat and his wife in the aisle. The victim woke up suddenly to find her pants unbuttoned and her shirt undone, according to the Washington Post, and Ramamoorthy's fingers inside of her. She started crying and ran to the back of the plane to tell flight attendants. The FBI arrested Ramamoorthy when the plane landed.
He told them he had taken a sleeping pill and didn't know what happened, but later admitted it was just Tylenol. Ramamoorthy and his wife also gave conflicting statements about where they were sitting, and if anyone moved seats around because the victim was sleeping.
Jurors deliberated 3 and a half hours before returning their decision, according to the news release.
“Everyone has the right to be secure and safe when they travel on airplanes," United States 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.”
Ramamoorthy told the FBI he might have unhooked the woman's bra and unzipped her pants. He tried to put his fingers inside the woman, he said, but he wasn't able to do it successfully.
The prosecution, however, presented evidence that penetration actually happened.
The FBI, which has jurisdiction on airline crimes, said sexual assaults on airplanes are on the uptick in recent years - from 38 in 2014 to 63 last year, according to the Post.
FBI special agent David Rodski told the Post that sexual assaults on planes often either go unreported or the victims wait before they tell someone.
If it happens, Rodski said, hit the call button and get someone's attention right away.
[Photo: Wayne County Sheriff's Office]