Priest Sentenced To 6 Months In Prison For Groping Woman On US Airways Flight

Almost exactly a year after he was caught groping a female passenger on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, a Catholic priest has been sentenced to six months behind bars in a federal prison, followed by six months of house arrest.

According to a grand jury indictment [PDF], on Aug. 17, 2014, the priest touched the woman’s breast, buttocks, and inner thigh for his own sexual gratification, and without her permission.

Reuters reports that when the priest boarded the flight, he asked if he could be moved to a seat in the rear of the plane to “sit next to his wife.”

At some point, the woman sitting next to the convicted groper woke up to find him touching the top of her leg and wrapping his arm around her body to grab her breast.

She got up from her seat, went to the plane’s lavatory and called a flight attendant to report the assault.

The priest was relocated to the front of the plane for the remainder of the flight. At Los Angeles, he was greeted by the police.

The priest’s explanation for touching the woman was that he believed it to be consensual because — being asleep — she did not reject his probing hands. He also chalked up her unconsciousness to “coyness.”

In May, a federal district court jury in California found the priest guilty of abusive sexual conduct. At sentencing, the woman testified that she still experienced “fear, frustration and anxiety,” especially since her work requires frequent air travel.