Indian IT professional jailed for 9 years in US for sexual assault on airplane

Updated: Dec 15, 2018, 19:09 IST | IANS | Washington DC

While seated next to his wife, Ramamoorthy took advantage of a 22-year-old woman travelling alone, federal prosecutors said in a sentencing memo ahead of his appearance before the court

Representational Image
Representational Image

Federal prosecutors in Detroit are seeking 130 months imprisonment for an Indian national, who is in the US on H-1B visa, for committing one of the "most brazen aeroplane sexual assaults".

Prabhu Ramamoorthy, who was arrested following the alleged incident in flight from Las Vegas to Detroit in January, is slated to be produced before a Detroit court Thursday afternoon. A federal jury has already convicted him of sexual assault.

While seated next to his wife, Ramamoorthy took advantage of a 22-year-old woman travelling alone, federal prosecutors said in a sentencing memo ahead of his appearance before the court.

"As she slept on a late-night flight, he untied her shirt, unzipped her pants, and shoved his fingers inside of her with such force that it woke her up," the prosecutors said.

"It was only then that he stopped, turned the other way, and pretended to sleep on his wife. When confronted by law enforcement, he claimed that he had been in a deep sleep and insisted that he did not intentionally touch her," they said.

Hours later, after relaying multiple different versions of the event, he finally admitted to touching her intentionally.

"Then at trial, he violated her even further by accusing her of imagining the whole thing. He refused to take responsibility for his actions and instead deflected blame onto her," the federal prosecutors said.

Ramamoorthy is from Tamil Nadu. Son of a farmer, he came to the US in July 2015 after his graduation to work as an IT professional.

During his trial, he presented himself before the court as a confused man stranded in America without English language skills despite his sophisticated technological job, the prosecutors said.

"His lack of empathy and remorse should not go unnoticed by this court," they argued, seeking nearly 11 years of imprisonment for him.

The prosecutor urged the court that Ramamoorthy should not be deported to India before completing his jail sentence.

"Individuals who come to America and commit sexual assaults should not simply be permitted to return to their home countries without fair punishment," the federal prosecutors said.

Ramamoorthy's lawyers urged the court for a minimum incarceration period, arguing that he has no criminal history and led a normal crime-free life.

His life is "effectively over", Ramamoorthy's lawyer told the court, adding, "As a result of this case, he will have been incarcerated, assaulted in custody, and eventually will be released to a life of shaming and great difficulties".

In recent years, a number of Indian nationals have been arrested or charged with sexual assaults inside a plane. The FBI says aeroplane sexual assault is a serious offence that is on the rise. FBI statistics indicate that investigations of mid-air sexual assaults increased by 66 per cent from 2014 to 2017.

That is 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 aeroplane 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.

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