FBI: Off-Duty Pilot Groped Girl, 14, On Delta Flight

Teen was traveling as unaccompanied minor to Utah

In-Flight Crime

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Delta Pilot Butt Grab

OCTOBER 29--An off-duty pilot traveling on a Delta Air Lines flight Saturday allegedly groped the buttocks of a sleeping 14-year-old girl who was seated next to him and flying as an unaccompanied minor, The Smoking Gun has learned.

Michael James Pascal, 45, was named yesterday in a felony complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Utah. Pascal, who works as a Delta Connection pilot, was charged with abusive sexual contact on an aircraft.

According to FBI Agent Cameron Smilie, Pascal and the teenage victim were traveling on Delta Flight #855, which departed Detroit at 5:45 PM Saturday and arrived in Salt Lake City about three hours later.

The girl, who was on crutches due to an injured foot, boarded the flight early, and was seated next to the window in row 44. Pictured at right, Pascal, a “non-revenue ticketed passenger,” sat in the row’s middle seat.

As detailed in the complaint, the girl (who is only identified by her initials, “R.S.”) told investigators that after having a short conversation with Pascal about her injury, “I made sure I had the armrest down because I usually feel uncomfortable when people get to close to me.”

The teenager said she later fell asleep in a seated position “with her legs pulled close to her chest and her feet on her seat.” When she awoke, the girl recalled, she noticed Pascal’s hand “under the left cheek of her buttocks.” The hand, she noted, was “far enough under her buttocks that his fingers were touching her inner thigh.”

Agent Smilie reported that the girl described feeling Pascal’s hand as “being palm up and feeling him gripping her buttocks but not moving.” The armrest between her and Pascal “was in the upright position” and some of Pascal’s body weight was on her.

Pascal’s eyes were open and he “was clearly awake,” the teenager told investigators.

The girl said that she elbowed Pascal in the right arm and stated, “What the hell are you doing?” After being struck by the teenager, Pascal “quickly pulled his hand out from under R.S.,” Smilie noted.

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I was asleep, I have to use the bathroom,” Pascal told the girl, according to the criminal complaint. After pressing the call button to summon a flight attendant, the girl left her seat and contacted a member of the flight crew (who moved the child to the plane’s last row).

After the plane landed in Utah, Pascal was interviewed by law enforcement officials. He claimed to have fallen asleep with his hands in his lap, but did not recall “where his hands were when he was awoken” by the girl’s thrown elbow and her “What the hell are you doing?” demand.

Pascal said that it “may be possible for his hand to have fallen in the minor’s seat while he was asleep.” When asked why he raised the armrest between him and the girl, Pascal explained that the male passenger in the aisle seat “was taking some of the space.” He added that the girl “was smaller and was not taking as much room in her seat.”

In custody since his arrest, Pascal appeared this afternoon in federal court, where a magistrate scheduled a detention hearing for Friday afternoon. (7 pages)