Passenger jailed for ‘groping’ woman’s inner thigh while she slept on flight

Department of Justice US
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A passenger who took a flight from Cleveland to Los Angeles in February 2020 has been jailed for 21 months after he intentionally touched the inner thigh of a sleeping woman seated next to him. 

On February 17, 2020, Mohammad Jawad Ansari, 50, boarded a flight from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). 

The man, from Diamond Bar, California, sat on the 10th row next to the window and the female victim occupied the middle seat.  

During a four-day trial, the court heard that the victim, who was wearing a dress, fell asleep shortly after takeoff with the armrest down, separating her from Ansari. 

During the flight, Ansari placed his left hand on the victim’s right knee and, without her consent, moved his hand to her inner thigh. 

The passenger sitting in the aisle seat next to the victim witnessed Ansari “groping” the victim’s inner thigh. 

The victim woke up, pushed Ansari’s hand away, left her seat, and informed a flight attendant about what had happened.  

The flight attendants observed Ansari for the remainder of the flight and believed he was pretending to sleep. 

“Ansari committed a serious offense that caused immediate and long-lasting harm to the victim, prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. In the immediate aftermath, Ansari’s groping left the victim shocked and afraid and witnesses testified that she sobbed for the remainder of the flight. On flights, the victim now struggles to fall asleep because she is constantly concerned about ‘what if someone touches me,’” the US attorney’s office said in a statement on October, 5, 2023. 

On May 9, 2023, a jury found Ansari guilty of one count of abusive sexual contact. 

He was sentenced by United States District Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, who also ordered the defendant to pay a $33,750 fine, $1,600 in restitution, a $100 special assessment, and an additional $5,000 special assessment. Furthermore, Ansari was ordered to register as a sex offender. 

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