A 49-year-old man from Pomona was found guilty by a federal jury for the felony offense of intentionally touching the inner thigh of a woman sleeping next to him on a flight to Los Angeles, authorities announced Tuesday.
The incident occurred on Feb. 17, 2020, after Mohammad Jawad Ansari boarded a flight at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport that was bound for LAX, according to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office.
Ansari was seated by the window in the tenth row of the plane while the victim occupied the middle seat. According to evidence presented at the four-day trial, the victim, who was wearing a dress, fell asleep not long after the flight took off with the armrest separating her from the 49-year-old man.
“At some point during the flight to Los Angeles, Ansari placed his left hand on the victim’s right knee and knowingly, intentionally, and without the victim’s consent, moved his hand to her inner thigh,” the release stated. “The person sitting in the 10th-row aisle seat next to the victim witnessed Ansari’s hand touching the victim’s inner thigh.”
When the victim awoke, she pushed Ansari’s hand away. She then left her seat and informed a flight attendant about the incident. Officials said the flight attendant “observed Ansari for the remainder of the flight and believed he was pretending to be asleep.”
Ansari was found guilty of one count of abusive sexual contact, for which he could face a maximum sentence of two years in federal prison. The 49-year-old is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 29.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has special jurisdiction over crimes that occur on flights, and the L.A. Airport Police investigated the case.
Victims of in-flight sexual misconduct, either verbal or physical, are encouraged to report the incidents to flight attendants and the nearest FBI office. Victims can also submit tips electronically at FBI-Tips.