Detroit, Mich. (USA Today) - A man from India is accused of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old woman Wednesday while she slept against a window on a flight from Las Vegas to Detroit, according to federal court filings.
Prabhu Ramamoorthy appeared Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit after the Spirit Airlines flight arrived at Metro Airport. He faces a charge of aggravated sexual abuse.
The woman reported she fell asleep and woke up "to a hand in her pants and noticed that her pants and shirt were unbuttoned," according to the federal complaint. She reported that the man was shoving his "fingers in her (genitals) and vigorously moving them. When she fully woke up, the man stopped," the complaint reports.
The woman immediately reported the allegations to flight attendants, who said she "appeared visibly upset and was crying," according to the complaint. Ramamoorthy was arrested and later told an FBI agent that he "'might have' undone (the woman's) bra while playing with it, and that he had cupped her (clothed) breast. He also indicated that he unzipped her pants part-way, and did put his finger into her pants. He stated that he tried to put his finger in her vagina but was not successful," according to the complaint.
Ramamoorthy, before speaking with the agent, gave a written statement that he was in "deep sleep," that the woman fell asleep on his knees and that he is "not sure where (he) kept the hand on her."
Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen ordered Ramamoorthy jailed ahead of a detention hearing.
Since he is not a U.S. citizen, Ramamoorthy could request for the government to notify his home country to help him with legal representation and to contact family, attorney Amanda Jawad of the U.S. Attorney's Office said in court Wednesday. Jill Leslie Price of the Federal Defender Office, who appeared with Ramamoorthy, said he was willing to have his home country notified of the charge.
Also during Wednesday's hearing, Price asked for Whalen to allow Ramamoorthy to read the complaint while he was still in the courtroom.
"It's something I don't want to send with him, because it might endanger him in the jail," she said.
Price didn't immediately respond to a Free Press request for comment. A spokesman with Spirit Airlines said in an email that it is cooperating with law enforcement.
Though rare, such incidents involving passengers — and even airline staff — have been reported previously on multiple airlines. In July 2014, a 19-year-old female passenger on Delta Air Lines en route to Amsterdam from Detroit a couple years earlier had fallen asleep midflight, only to wake up and discover the man seated next to her had his hands down her underpants and was fondling her, according to a criminal complaint filed at the time in federal court in Detroit.
And in October 2013, an off-duty Delta Connection pilot based in Detroit was accused of fondling a 14-year-old girl on a flight from Detroit Metro Airport to Salt Lake City. The teen — an unaccompanied minor on crutches due to a foot injury — had told the FBI that a 45-year-old pilot gripped her butt, touched her inner thigh and partly leaned on her as she was sleeping in her window seat, the Free Press reported at the time.
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