A man who molested a 22-year-old woman on a flight from Las Vegas to Detroit has been sentenced to 9 years in a US prison, a court ruled on Thursday.
Indian national, Prabhu Ramamoorthy, was residing in the states on a work visa when he sexually assaulted a young woman on an Spirit Airlines flight, on January 3.
According to court papers, Ramamoorthy is from Tamil Nadu, where he grew up. His parents are farmers. He came to the US in July, 2015 after his graduation to work as an IT professional. Ramamoorthy, who was travelling on a Spirit Airlines flight between Las Vegas and Detroit, was arrested in Michigan by the Federal authorities. A federal court in Detroit sentenced him to nine years of prison time on charges of a “brazen sexual assault” against a fellow female passenger done earlier this year. The offender will be deported from the States after his sentence will be over.
Judge Terrence Berge hoped it would be grave enough to deter others from committing similar crimes. Federal prosecutors had sought 11 years of imprisonment for Ramamoorthy.
“Everyone has the right to be secure and safe when they travel on airplanes. We will not tolerate the behaviour of anyone, who takes advantage of victims who are in a vulnerable position. We appreciate the victim in this case for her courage to speak out,” US Attorney Matthew Schneider said after the sentencing was announced.
While the victim was seated next to him on the window side, his wife was seated on the other. The sexual abuse took place while the victim was sleeping. She told the investigators that she found the man’s hands inside her pants which he had unbuttoned along with her shirt. After she was aware of the circumstances, she immediately contacted the flight attendants and reported the incident. “I found him shoving his fingers inside my pant and vigorously moving them” said the victim according to court records.
Timothy R Slater, Special Agent in Charge, a Detroit Division of the FBI, said that the judgement has proven that the safety of passengers in aircraft is a priority of the security officials.
The accused in his statement to the federal agents said that he had taken a pill and was in a deep sleep while the 22-year-old woman was sleeping on his knees. He further told the officials that he had requested the flight attendants to change his seat which went unheard by them. His wife gave similar statements, which either meant she was trying to cover up for her husband’s actions or she was oblivious of his actions.
During his trial, Ramamoorthy presented himself to the court as a confused man stranded in America without English language skills despite his sophisticated technological job, federal prosecutors alleged. “His lack of empathy and remorse should not go unnoticed by this court,” they argued, seeking nearly 11 years of imprisonment for him.
In the past few years, many Indian nationals have been arrested and charged of sexual assaults while on board. FBI statistics indicate that investigations of mid-air sexual assaults increased by 66 per cent from 2014 to 2017.
That was in part due to increasingly “cramped, confined spaces; alcohol and drugs; fewer flight attendants; and dark cabins on night flights” — factors that “likely embolden offenders” — the FBI said in a recent report.
The cramped style of airplane seating can exacerbate trauma for victims. According to mental health professionals, victims who are violated in confined spaces feel even more helpless, vulnerable and powerless. Victims may also feel intimidated by the person sitting next to them since the seating arrangement means that the perpetrator is effectively blocking the victim from getting up, according to the FBI.