Cover photo courtesy: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
New York, Feb 1 (IANS) A 33-year-old Indian-American doctor accused of masturbating next to a 14-year-old girl on a plane has been found not guilty following a three-day trial in Boston federal court.
Sudipta Mohanty, a primary care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, was accused of performing the lewd act on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Boston in May, 2022.
After a judge cleared him of any wrongdoing on Wednesday, Mohanty said the accusation had been difficult for his family, The New York Post reported.
“My fiance was sitting next to me on that flight, and neither of us can understand why this happened to us,” he said in a written statement.
“I have dedicated my life to caring for others as a physician, and it has been heartbreaking to step away while I dealt with these false accusations.”
Following the incident, Mohanty was arrested and charged with one count of lewd, indecent, and obscene acts while in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the US.
According to the charging documents, Mohanty was seated next to the minor who was travelling with her grandparents, seated nearby.
About halfway through the flight, the minor allegedly observed that Mohanty had covered himself with a blanket up to his neck and that Mohanty’s leg was bouncing up and down.
Shortly thereafter, the minor observed that the blanket was on the floor, no longer covering Mohanty and that he was masturbating.
The minor moved herself to an empty seat in a different row for the remainder of the flight and claimed to have felt “disgusted and very uncomfortable”.
After arriving in Boston, she informed members of her family about the incident, and law enforcement was notified.
Mohanty said that the dozen passengers around them and the flight attendants never acted like anything was wrong during the time frame the girl accused him of self-pleasure, The Post reported.
After being indicted in September, he opted for a bench trial, meaning he handed his case down to a judge, not a jury.
The charge of lewd, indecent and obscene acts while in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the US provides for a sentence of up to 90 days in prison, up to one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $5,000.
Prosecutors said they were disappointed with the case’s outcome, saying: “Our office has no reservations about having proceeded with this case.
“Our office will remain steadfast in supporting victims, particularly minor children. It is critical that victims know they can come forward, and they will be heard and be fully supported by our office,” US Attorney Joshua Levy was quoted as saying in The Post.
“Dr Mohanty is a talented and dedicated medical doctor. He has absolutely no history of wrongdoing whatsoever,” Mohanty’s lawyer, Claudia Lagos, said in a statement.
“The last six months have been a bizarre nightmare for him, and he is relieved this is finally over so that he can rebuild his life,” Lagos said.