DOCUMENT: Crime

Sleeping Woman Molested During Airplane Flight

FBI: Perp had hand down victim's shirt for five minutes

Sleeping Passenger

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Flight Breast Grope

En route from London to San Francisco, the British Airways passenger awoke to find that she'd been groped by a male flier.APRIL 24--While napping on a flight from London to San Francisco, a female traveler was molested by a fellow passenger who placed his hand down the woman’s shirt and groped her for about five minutes, prosecutors allege.

The victim was aboard British Airways Flight 285 last Tuesday when she was assaulted by Vinay Pochampally, according to a U.S. District Court criminal complaint. The molestation occurred about two hours into the flight.

The female passenger was seated in row 37, behind which was a “bulkhead of the galley and restroom area.” During the flight, Pochampally, who was assigned a seat in row 36 of the Boeing 747, “positioned himself in the gap behind row 37 and in front of the bulkhead,” reported FBI Agent Bianca Betz in a sworn affidavit.

“While in that gap, Pochampally inserted his hand, palm-side down, into the shirt of the sleeping female passenger,” noted Betz. Pochampally’s hand was “underneath the passenger’s shirt and undergarments for approximately four to five minutes, making skin-to-skin contact in the breast and upper chest area,” added Betz.

A section of a Boeing 747 seating chart can be seen at right.

When the victim awoke, Pochampally--who was reportedly intoxicated--quickly removed his hand from her shirt and ran away down the plane’s aisle. According to the criminal complaint, “multiple passengers witnessed the incident” and told crew members what occurred.

British Airways workers confronted Pochampally upon learning of the molestation incident and directed him to move to a different seat for the remainder of the 10-hour trip.

Pochampally was charged with simple assault in a misdemeanor complaint filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court. It is unclear whether Pochampally is a U.S. citizen, nor do court records identify his lawyer. (3 pages)