(KTLA) – A Southern California man who was found guilty of groping a sleeping woman on a plane from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 2020 was sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison, officials said Thursday.
Back in May, a jury found Mohammad Jawad Ansari, 50, of Diamond Bar, guilty of one count of abusive sexual contact, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Aside from the 21-month sentence, he was also ordered to pay a $33,750 fine, $1,600 in restitution, a $100 special assessment and an additional $5,000 special assessment, officials said.
The charge stems from a Feb. 21, 2020 incident when Ansari intentionally touched the inner thigh of a woman sleeping in the seat next to him on the LAX-bound flight, officials said.
“At some point during the flight to Los Angeles, Ansari placed his left hand on the victim’s right knee and, without the victim’s consent, moved his hand to her inner thigh,” officials detailed. “The person sitting in the 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 and informed a flight attendant about what had occurred. Flight attendants observed Ansari during the remainder of the flight and believed that he was pretending to be sleeping, officials said.
“[Ansari] committed a serious offense that caused immediate and long-lasting harm to [the victim],” prosecutors argued in the sentencing memorandum. “In the immediate aftermath, [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.’”
The FBI’s L.A. field office issued a public service announcement to bring awareness to the “problem of sexual assault on airplanes,” which can be found here.
“While sexual assault can happen anywhere, many travelers don’t realize that it can happen during a flight on an airplane. The FBI has special jurisdiction to investigate crimes that occur aboard aircraft—including sexual assaults,” Donald Alway, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s L.A. office, said in the PSA. “Most passengers travel by air without incident, but if you or a loved one encounter sexual misconduct—whether physical or verbal—please alert your flight attendant immediately because timely reporting is important for responding investigators.”
Victims are also encouraged to report the incident to a flight attendant and to your nearest FBI field office or to submit a tip online to the FBI at https://tips.fbi.gov/.