Man Convicted of In-Flight Felony: His "Face Was Pressed To Vaginal Area"

We’d heard of the “mile high” club, but we’d always assumed that it involved the plane’s lavatory. Not for Carl Persing and Dawn Sewell. Carl has been convicted, yes, convicted of interfering with flight attendants and crew members after he and his girlfriend were “embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable.”

According to the FBI indictment, “Persing’s face was pressed to Sewell’s vaginal area” during the September Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Raleigh, N.C. When a flight attendant gave them a second warning, Persing reacted angrily and the couple, both in their early 40s, were arrested when the plane reached its destination.”

You’re laughing now, but Persing isn’t. He’s been convicted of a felony in a jury trial and now faces 20 years in prison, some of which he will likely have to serve.

MSNBC, (who failed to mention the “face pressed in vaginal area” part of the complaint and are now seen by this website as somewhat prudish to say the least) reports that Persing threatened the flight attendant twice after she refused to serve them alcohol.

So how is it that a little “dining at the Y” can equal a possible 20 year prison term? “You can’t make any threatening gesture to an attendant because it does violate the Patriot Act,” explained Slepian [ABC’s Airplane Security Expert]. “They don’t want you getting out of your seat except to go the lavatory. The whole idea is to keep control. If you react to the attendant, you’re going to get locked up.”

So once again, we at Consumerist remind you not to get drunk on a plane. And get your head out of her lap….or the terrorists win. —MEGHANN MARCO

California Man May Go to Prison for Kissing on a Plane [ABC News]
Man convicted for mile-high makeout [MSNBC]
(Photo: iwantamonkey)

Comments

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  1. lore says:

    Come on! Be a little more discreet – at least use one of those in-flight blankets or something!

  2. Hoss says:

    How does one get down there in the cheap seats?

  3. kerry says:

    Y’know, I’d think keeping your head in her lap would defeat the terrorists once and for all. Poor guy, just trying to have some fun.

  4. TVarmy says:

    I understand we need to tighten security and penalties in some ways to prevent terrorism, but this shows a serious problem with the patriot act. Common sense would probably be to ban the guy from air travel for a while. The longer side of a while, of course.

  5. timmus says:

    Ah, good old Draconian laws. Geez, you could DRIVE from point A to point B, drunk, get a DWI, and get in less trouble.

  6. Wormfather says:

    No words…should have sent pervert.

  7. nomad73 says:

    i have very little sympathy for this guy. Ok 20 years is a bit much, but when are people going to learn that you cannot act this way on airplanes? And I’m not talking about the little “dining at the Y” part – he got caught, was warned, should have been embarrassed, and should have stopped. Instead the guy got confrontational and he’s getting what he deserves. I sort of like the fact that at on an airplane seems to be the one place where people really can be arrested for acting like an asshole.

  8. umrain says:

    I’ve heard that the airlines have been moving seats closer together to fit more passengers but this is ridiculous.

  9. GlobalVillageIdiots says:

    Reason has left the room and “knee jerk” response is now king. Public affection is now a crime? Is the truth about what they “did” actually known or has the media taken this for another ride with commentary as opposed to actual facts? This is sick on a scale we have never know before. This response far outweighs any perceived threat and is another indicator that we no longer live in a free society. http://www.GlobalVillageIdiots.com

  10. Ass_Cobra says:

    “Geez, you could DRIVE from point A to point B, drunk, get a DWI, and get in less trouble.”

    Not to mention all the road-head. Even if it’s a standard transmission, you don’t shift that often on the highways.

    I think the real question is “are these people Uggos? If so, throw the book at them, if not what’s the problem.” I keeed I keeed. Ugly people need love too…love in private rooms with the shades drawn and the door locked.

  11. mac-phisto says:

    Persing’s face was pressed to Sewell’s vaginal area…When a flight attendant gave them a second warning…


    note to self: at least 2 warnings given for sexual acts on plane. be sure to ignore warnings rather than lashing out at stewardess. perhaps an invitation would be in order?

  12. mac-phisto says:

    “excuse me, miss. this plane is atrociously dirty & i have not received my in-flight 1 oz. bag of pretzels. could i have the phone number for complaints for your airline?”

    “is that a threat? that’s it buddy, you’re going to jail!”

  13. PhilK says:

    I hope the jury doesn’t do something stupid and actually sentence him to more than maybe a bunch of community service. How is what he did even remotely related to a 20 year sentence? I think even if he punched the flight attendant it’s not a 20 year sentence, that’s way too severe.

    Also, how the hell did you even get down there? Bending over is out and there’s not nearly enough room to be on the floor in front. I can’t think of any way to do it even and even be mildly inconspicuous.

  14. PhilK says:

    @nomad73: You can’t act like that in a lot of places and haven’t been able to for longer than there have been planes. Why does it matter that it was on a plane? Would you jail him had he done it on a boat? or a train?

    Arrest him when he gets off the plane, scare him a bit, sentence him to a minor but annoying punishment, maybe even at the extreme ban him from flying for a period of time…20 years (I’d say even 5-10) in jail is just malicious for something this harmless.

  15. Scazza says:

    The poor guy was prolly just starving. Having to choose between airline food and … ahem, you get the point…

  16. acambras says:

    @PhilK:

    Would you do it on a boat?
    Would you do it with a goat?

    Would you do it on a train?
    Would you do it in the rain?

    Would you do it in a car?
    Would you do it near or far?

  17. Skeptic says:

    According to the FBI indictment, “Persing’s face was pressed to Sewell’s vaginal area

    Really? That’s pretty impressive since a vagina is on the inside of a woman’s body. Perhaps his face was merely pressed against her crotch, mons, pubic area, pubis or vulva?

    Given the extreme interest, either for or against, in sex in this country you’d at least hope that people could identify body parts with more accuracy than they can identify the capitols of the US states. I guess abstinence-only education doesn’t see a need to identify what students are never supposed to see until they are married for life.

  18. nequam says:

    @RowdyRoddyPiper: I agree with your entire post!

    Lest everyone continue freaking out, the guy is not going to get a 20-year sentence. That’s merely the maximum. And the judge has wide discretion for sentencing (the jury does not sentence). I would be surprised if the guy serves any time . . . and it sounds from the articles that the gov’t has not asked for much. Of course, I’m probably wrong and this guy will get out of prison at age 65. In prison, he can put his head in as many laps as his heart desires (or is forced to).

  19. royal72 says:

    @nomad73: you gotta be fucking kidding me. by your logic you need to be locked up 20 years and your life thrown in the shitter as well then. here are a few questions for you…

    have you ever had one (1) drink with your dinner and driven home?… you are a drunk driver by law (read it carefully) and you may kill my child on the road so here’s 20 years for you.

    have you ever used a derogatory word in public when someone might hear?… well you offended jane doe’s religion and you get 20 years for ruining her faith and religious persecution.

    have you looked at or do you have any porn on your computer today?… you get 20 years, because unbeknownst to you, one of the people in that porn is only 17 and used a fake id.

    have you ever had a less than happy attitude on a plane, regardless of circumstances and reasons?… here’s 20 years, as you are a national security threat.

    do you have any songs and/or videos that you “borrowed” from a friend in your home and/or on your computer?… you get five years of jail time and 20 years of structured payments to the riaa and mpaa.

    on that note, how much are 94 words (your post) worth in compensation, because you ruined my morning and i spent way too much time on this post. i have now gone over my alloted breaktime and may be fired from work. my family won’t be able to eat, we’ll be evicted, and in short, my life and that of my family is now (well possibly) completely ruined… is there a good lawyer in the house, that will take half of the settlement to sue nomad for $2 billion?

    …silly post? absolutely. far from the truth? not by very much.

  20. jmc_consumer says:

    This is not about what he was doing, but what he did after getting caught.

    If I confront a parking meter attendant giving me a parking ticket and punch him/her in the face. I am not going to jail for a parking ticket but for the assault. If he was abusive to the flight attendant then he should be punished for that.

    I sure wouldn’t want to explain my armed robber cellmate that I was serving time for refusing to stop “pressing my face into a vaginal area”

  21. RumorsDaily says:

    He should go to jail. Don’t threaten people on a plane. I don’t care if you’re having sex or want more booze or just want a pillow, don’t threaten people on a plane. How hard is it not to threaten people?

    Seriously, being on a plane is a unique situation where law enforcement cannot respond in any manner to situations that arise, which requires greater legal protection through heightened punishments. Just don’t threaten people and you won’t go to jail.

    Very little sympathy.

  22. Buran says:

    Since when is it a criminal offense to offend someone? Last time I checked in the US it’s not a crime to offend other people. You have no right to not be offended. If I give you the finger, you can’t have me hauled off to jail. Cops have tried that and then had to pay up for false arrest/imprisonment. As long as you don’t touch anyone without their consent, or directly say “I will kill you” or any such direct threat, there’s nothing they can do to you.

    People need to grow up and get a spine.

  23. SexCpotatoes says:

    @PhilK: As far as I know, judges do the sentencing round this country. The jury just finds for guilt or innocence.

  24. formergr says:

    Once again, he’s not getting arrested for making out with the woman, he’s getting arrested because he not only didn’t stop after being warned twice (not following crew directions), but he then got confrontational!

  25. zsouthboy says:

    I would just like to point out that I love cunnilingus.

    When cunnilingus is outlawed, only outlaws will have cunnilingus.

    …on a plane.

  26. nomad73 says:

    @royal72: you’ve got to be kidding me. you’re comparing being in possession of pirated music to making threats to flight attendants aboard an aircraft? How is having pirated music “acting like an asshole”? When I see people behaving the way the guy in question likely did – like a rude, spoiled, jock, brat – I usually wish they would die a painful death. Luckily for me, he behaved this way aboard an aircraft, and he will pay a price for it. I’m sick of dealing with people behaving like assholes and ruining things for others. Fuck this guy, I’m glad he’ll do some jail time.

    I can’t believe you counted the number of words in my post. I’ve never heard of a law against “Ruining [someone’s] faith.” Nor would taking one drink with dinner and driving home put me or anyone I know above the legal limit. You need to start taking those Xanax pills again and come back down to Earth.

  27. mbrutsch says:

    @Buran: You’re kidding, right? Unless the “last time you checked” was 1970, there are at least two sweeping generalizations that can now be used to imprison people who “offend” someone: “terroristic threats” and “hate speech”. Oh, let’s not forget that mooning someone can get you a lifetime subscription to “sex offender registry magazine”.

  28. maestrosteve says:

    The crime is that he threatened the flight attendant twice. That violates the Patriot Act.

    All that other stuff certainly makes the story interesting, but the reason he had any problem at all was that he made the threat.
    Bad judgement, but of course being drunk and in love has led to lots of bad judgements for too many people.

  29. lincolnparadox says:


    Skeptic–

    Technically, if her left leg was over is neck, and his head was turned sideways, I’m pretty sue he could be pressed against her “vaginal area.”

    That’s neither here nor there. Listen, if you want to have sex on a plane, the key is not to bug anyone else. Hide your business. Take a Red Eye. Don’t make any noise.

    Remember, there are decency laws still. Anything you can’t do on the steps of city hall, your pretty much can’t do any else.

    Poop in the toilet. Get a permit if you’re going to protest. Make sure to hide your vaginal pressing.

    The stewardess was nice enough to just warn them the first time. The guy should get minimum sentence for threatening an airline employee, to be sure, and court-mandated anger management therapy might be good for him, too.

    LP

    PS- globalvillageidiots.com looks like a FARK knockoff, or worse, a consumerist knockoff.

  30. Buran says:

    @mbrutsch: No, I’m not kidding. You have no right to not be offended, and it doesn’t sound to me like a hate speech issue.

    Of course, the best thing to do is to just not react to anyone who tries to bait you.

  31. ThinkAboutItPlease says:

    People engaging in sex on an airplane reach great heights of being rude jerks. Maybe the notion is hot to some, but those who do this stuff are FORCING people around them, who have absolutely no other place to go, to watch live pornography. Damn right they should be arrested.

    I had to watch two people going at it on a Southwest Airlines flight a few years ago. Mind you, I loves sex, but in private, and by my choice, and on my terms. The flight attendants on that flight pretended not to see what was going on. I’m sure it’s one of their least favorite situations to deal with.

  32. GiselleBeardchen says:

    Hey, on Southwest with an “A” ticket and a bulkhead seat, you can really go to town.

  33. superbmtsub says:

    Me thinks the prudy flight attendant’s the cause of it. If she didnt think of giving out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or whatever the # of warnings, none of this wouldve happened. Also the clowns who felt “uncomfortable” are to blame too. After that, since the dude got mad and threatened someone on a plane, he’s to blame as well. Goddangit too many ppl to blame. Cant they jus resolve it and have a gangbang? Everybody goes home happy. :)

  34. a says:

    I wonder if all the people commenting that this was a perfectly fine thing to do on a plane are the same ones who were incredulous about having a few plastic wrappers on the ground (read: not where you SIT for upwards of 6 hours) in that other article a while back.

  35. Keter says:

    Fer pete’s sake…if I had been the flight attendant, I would have just made one of them move to a different seat when I first saw the he’n and she’n going on. Would have solved the whole thing right away.

    I’m surprised that the airlines apparently don’t have a policy similar to this already in place.

  36. tcabeen says:

    Allow me to present the first two paragraphs of the ABC story:

    A California man may pay with prison time for a public display of affection on a plane.

    Carl Persing was convicted Thursday of interfering with flight attendants and crew members after he and his girlfriend, Dawn Sewell, were seen “embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable,” according to a criminal complaint.

    Dear ABC: Does Not Follow!
    He’s not arrested FOR a public display of affection. He’s arrested AFTER a public display of affection. What he’s arrested FOR is “interfering with flight attendants and crew members.”

    Who is your editor? Sens A. Shunalist?
    Sensationalist. Get it? Ok, bad joke.
    Still, this is ridiculous. You don’t mess with the flight attendants or pilots. Ever. Not even on September 10, 2001. Of course the penalties are bigger now, but it’s always been just a bad idea.

  37. dawne31 says:

    My name is Dawn Sewell. The headlines in this article read “Drunks on a Plane”. I beg your pardon Ms. Marco, but you seem to not have all the facts. We both blew in breathylizers and PASSED!!! No drunks here. Sex had nothing to do with the indictment. Charges against me were dismissed due to lack of evidence. The alledged threat is when Carl “warned” the male flight attendant to get out of his face AFTER “SkyGod” (according to his own myspace page) Frank McCabe “Frank the Tank” put his hands on me and on Carl, yelled at us, humiliated us and loudly accused us of doing unimaginable things. My point is, you do not have all the facts and are clearly going off of the information that you got from other sources (more than likely other media sources). I challenge you to create another little story after you get a copy of the court transcript? You have not heard our side. That flight was living hell and the last 8 months of our lives have been as well. I am so glad that you are getting a laugh out of this. At least someone can. We have six children who are not laughing. In fact, they do a lot of crying. The penalties are excessive and Carl’s attorney will file for appeal. Because of the penalties, we are loosing everything that we have, including our home and vehicles, possibly Carl’s job, VA benefits (Carl served in the US Navy and served two terms in the Persian Gulf War), pensions, retirement, but most of all the kids might loose time with their father and I my husband. Meghann, I am so glad you are laughing, it shows your maturity level and professionalism. BTW, I hate to burst your little bubble, but the sex thing never happened. Not one person took the stand and testified that they actually saw it, but they admitted “assuming” that it was happening based on Franks actions. Like I said, you do not have all the facts and what you said was very cruel. Thanks a lot.

  38. Meg Marco says:

    Dawn, feel free to submit your story and court transcript to our tipline and we will review it. tips@consumerist.com. Thanks.

  39. RobiMoore says:

    Meghannmarco why don’t you try appologizing to my sister Dawn for your ignorance?

  40. darlanash says:

    What is with you people? You read a headline or hear a news report, so it must be true. Do you not get it? The conviction on Carl Persing is outragous. So if you get on a plane and let’s say your ex-friend happens to be a flight attendant and he just hates you. What do you think he can do to you if he wanted to? If he’s the “SKY GOD” he can accuse you of sex on the plane and have you arrested when you get off. But you didnt do anything, you were only sleeping. This conviction opens the door to a lot of other shit that the air crew can do to you. I think the FBI sucks! They are the ones who made the charge under the Patriot Act. They are the ones who would not allow them to see the judge, but instead threw them in jail for 3 days, with only one side of the story heard. The side of Frank McCabe, aka Frank the Tank and also known as “SKY GOD”. What does that tell you? He was the only one uncomfortable with the innocent affects that my brother was giving to his fiance.

    Yeah meghanmarco say you’re sorry!

  41. dawne31 says:

    Meghan,

    I noticed that you removed the part of your story that stated you were happy Carl was convicted. Why did you do that? It takes away from one of the issues I addressed in my comment.

  42. dawne31 says:

    I have just read through the comments again and realized that some of you might find it interesting to know that Frank, the flight attendant, assumed that Carl had his face in my “vaginal” area. He never saw anything though. He just didn’t want to appear incorrect to his co-workers (one of which testified was offended by Carl kissing me. We did not know she was until the trial). Frank made the allegations very loudly and continued baiting Carl by asking him if he wanted anything to drink on numerous occasions, knowing that Carl wanted a jack and coke. He harrassed us beyond belief. Finally, after being awakened for a third time by Frank shaking him, towering over him and leaning into our isle, and yelling that we were touching each other inappropriately, (his face was very close to Carl’s), Carl “warned” him to get out of his face. Carl also let him know that we were going to file a complaint against him when we got on the ground. Frank turned that into “a serious confrontation”. We later learned, at trial, that if Frank in fact got a warning, he would loose his job (this was in his personnel file and the jury was NOT allowed to see it). He had the maximum allowable points against him with Southwest. This was his motive for lying. So for all of you who repeatedly state that Carl threatened the flight attendant, the only threat that Carl made was to turn him in to his supervisors when we got on the ground. It is very unfortunate that Carl used the word “warn” when telling the guy to get out of his face. The law that he is being convicted under was not intended to be applied to this type of situation. If you don’t ever want to go through something like this yourself, or your children or other loved ones, write your congressman and tell him how you feel. Darla, I applaud your remark about the FBI. When we were taken into custody, one of the FBI agents asked the other, Michael Sutton, if we should be taken before the magistrate right then (then we could have been charged and gone home), but Michael Sutton got this shit eating smirk and said “no, let ‘em spend the weekend in county”. We even told him that we had kids we needed to get home to. He also ran a criminal background check and KNEW that we didn’t have criminal records. He didn’t care. He already had us convicted in his mind (whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?) I am convinced that he is loving this attention. He’s an eregant jerk.

  43. Terrie says:

    In the story about Carl Persing and Dawn Sewell (front page today) you left out the most important part: Prior to this incident, Frank McCabe, the flight attendant, had received so many negative marks on his employment record with Southwest Airlines, that if he received just one more, he would loose his job. During this flight, Carl and Dawn both told Frank, that when the plane landed, they wanted to meet with his boss, so that they could make a formal complaint!

    Now, we see the real motive Frank had in exaggerating his story and continuing to harass Carl to the point of Carl telling him to get out of his face! It worked! Talk about abuse of power!

  44. darlanash says:

    It is so crazy how us as Americans can so easily turn on each other. Some folks lie and cheat just so they do not have to take responsiblity for their own actions. They turn on others so that they look superior. They hide the truth so that they don’t have to face the conseqencses. It’s not okay to bully. I’m a firm believer that bad deeds do go full cycle. Mr. McCabe and Mr. Sutton what do you say to that?

  45. Jessica_100 says:

    Dawn, first- Happy Mothers Day! I’m sorry you and your family had to go through such a horrible nightmare.

    My initial reaction to the article was “maybe the guy was trying to sleep in her lap”.. big deal? Anyhow, whether it was kissing, sleeping fondling, whatever! There was absolutely no justification for what these attendants and authorities did. It is completely unconscionable to have treated you so horribly and destroy your lives this way. The punishment must fit the crime (obviously there WAS NO REAL THREAT MADE!), and in this case the only crimes that were commited were by the flight attendants, the airlines and the FBI!! These are the people we should be concerned about when considering “public safety”! This makes me affraid to fly ever again!

    For the folks here who have the audacity to say that they desrved (any) punishment for their actions- you should be completely ashamed of yourselves! And yes, do get your facts straight first! One can only conclude that a person of such consciousness is, misserable, lonely and angry.

    “What has this country become” is all I can say…
    Good luck to you Dawn and your family, I wish you all the best.

  46. dawne31 says:

    Jessica, Thank you very much for you comment. It truly means a lot. We just want a normal life. We truly thought after the trial, charges would be dismissed against both of us and we would be able to move on with our lives. Little did we know, many people already had their minds made up about us. Even now, no matter how much we explain, some people just want to believe the worst, like “you must have done something if you were arrested”. But thank you very much for the Happy Mother’s Day wish and the same to you if you are a mommy too. If not, just have a good ol’ happy day. It is nice to hear from nice people. @Jessica_100:

  47. nequam says:

    @dawne31: Just curious, Dawn: Did you find this post while searching for yourself on Google?

  48. dawne31 says:

    no, the link was forwarded to me.

  49. Jackncoke says:

    The fact of the matter is no one knows what really happened on that plane except those on the flight. People can comment all they want, Persing’s family can believe whatever they’ve been told, but they were not on the plane! Period. Just because Carl Persing told his family the supposed truth, it still doesnt mean it is the truth. They can believe him all they want, but the fact remains…they dont know what really happened!!! Sorry but you dont. They can blame the flight attendant all they want, but the flight attendant was there, Persings family was not. Dawn Sewell was there, but do you think she might have just a little wee bit of a reason to lie? Hmmm….gee i dunno. The guy is over 40, grab a clue man, have your fun, but when ya get caught, stop. Sounds to me like he didnt know gettin in the flight attentants face was against the law, and now he’s gotta come up with all these different angles to justify what he did, including getting his family to fight for him. Does anyone think that if Persing were to just say he made a mistake in judgement and said he was sorry the judge might go lighter on him? It seems unbelievable that this guy was just completely picked on and he did absolutely nothing wrong, I think i might believe him more if he wasnt trying so hard to make people believe he was the perfect passenger. I heard the guy has some chronic illness and was on some heavy medication? Well then why did he want a drink? Doesnt most medication warn not to drink while on it? Another thing I wonder about is if Persing was trying to be left alone, why did he antagonize the flight attendant by calling him names? I usually find that people wanting to be left alone usually dont say anything. And Dawn, you probably know all about Persings disease, as his girlfriend, why would you encourage him to drink? Seems to me you should have been urging him not to drink? By you not discouraging him it would seem you really dont care about Persings health or are very ignorant.

  50. dawne31 says:

    In response to your remarks I am in complete agreement that only the people involved know the truth and even then, everyones version is going to be different. That being said, our families KNOW us and they believe in us. Our lack of criminal history speaks for itself. Our family and friends know that we are not trouble makers. Now, as far as Carl getting in the flight attendants face, I wonder how you actually know that this happened? Were you there? Clearly you were not because it did NOT happen, it was the other way around, the flight attendant got in our faces. How do you know there was name calling? Were you there? How do you know I was “encouraging him to drink”? Were you there? How do you know that his medication warned not to drink while taking it? Did you read the label? How do you know that I don’t care about my fiancee’s health? You don’t know anything about me. It is clear to me that you are the one who is ignorant, making assumptions and drawing conclusions all while not having all the facts. Also, if you did your homework, you would know that Carl is a nervous flyer and he made the decision to have two drinks versus pills (sedatives) to help calm him and help him sleep. His own Dr. said that two drinks one time would not harm him. I will make one thing clear to you, my future husband and myself are not the type of people to admit to something we didn’t do in hopes that “the Judge might go lighter on him”. We stand up for what we believe in and that flight attendant was way out of line. So the fact of the matter is you don’t have all the facts.