A plane prepares to land at Los Angeles International Airport on July 18, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
A Southern California man was sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison Oct. 5 for groping the inner thigh of a sleeping woman sitting next to him on a flight from Cleveland, Ohio, to Los Angeles in February 2020.
United States District Judge Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha in Los Angeles sentenced Mohammad Jawad Ansari, 50, of Diamond Bar—a city in eastern Los Angeles County—to 21 months in prison. The judge also ordered him to pay a $33,750 fine, $1,600 in restitution, and $5,100 in special assessments.
He was also ordered to register as a sex offender.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, Mr. Ansari boarded a flight from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport Feb. 17, 2020. He sat in a window seat near the front of the plane.
The victim, who was wearing a dress, was in the middle seat next to him, and fell asleep just after the plane took off. The armrest separating the two was down, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At some point during the flight, officials say Mr. Ansari placed one of his hands on the victim’s right knee and moved his hand to her inner thigh. A passenger sitting in the aisle seat next to the victim witnessed Mr. Ansari’s movements.
When the woman awoke, she reportedly pushed Mr. Ansari’s hand away, left her seat, and informed a flight attendant. Flight attendants told authorities they observed Mr. Ansari during the rest of the flight and thought he was pretending to sleep.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Los Angeles Airport Police investigated the incident.
“[Mr. 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, [Mr. 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.’”
After a four-day trial, a jury found Mr. Ansari guilty May 9 of one count of abusive sexual contact.