Man Pleads Guilty To Groping Teen On American Airlines Flight

Image courtesy of Oliver Holzbauer

Seven months after an Oregon man was accused of groping a 13-year-old girl traveling alone on an American Airlines flight, the man has pleaded guilty. 

The Associated Press reports the 26-year-old man pleaded guilty to charges of making an indecent sexual proposal to a minor and assault with intent to commit abusive sexual contact of a minor.

The incident occurred in June during an American flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Portland.

According to a criminal complaint filed in a U.S. District Court, the man, who was sitting in the middle seat of a row next to the teen, allegedly started making small talk with the teen before leaning against her, nudging her, and touching her with his elbow. He then allegedly put his hands on her knee and upper thigh three times.

A flight attendant handing out snacks in the aisle saw his hand near the girl’s crotch, the complaint says, and noticed a tear on the girl’s face. She ordered the man to change seats, directing him to the back of the cabin, and moved the girl forward several rows.

The captain was then alerted and the man was arrested when the plane arrived in Portland.

The girl told investigators she remembered feeling “frightened and trapped” during the incident, and told authorities she didn’t use the bathroom for the rest of the flight because she didn’t want to run into the man.

The AP reports that the man agreed to a plea deal in which prosecutors will recommend a 14-month prison term, with credit for time served, and the man will register as a sex offender for 15 years.

“I invaded her space, touching her in her thigh and her groin area,” the man said in court. “I had inappropriate conversations with her. My words were fairly considered to be indecent. What I did was wrong in all respects.”

The incident also spurred a lawsuit against American. In July, the girl’s family sued the airline and suspect, claiming the carrier failed to protect the teen during the flight.

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