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Indian held for 'sexually assaulting' woman on US flight

Washington, Jan 5 (IANS) A 34-year-old Indian man has been arrested in the US for an alleged sexual assault on a woman passenger who fell asleep next to him on a flight.

The man, Prabhu Ramamoorthy, was accused of abusing a 22-year-old woman seated by the window next to him while his wife was on his other side on a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Detroit early on January 3.

Ramamoorthy, who prosecutors said was an Indian national living in the US on a temporary visa, was charged with aggravated sexual abuse and held without bail after an appearance in federal court in Michigan on Thursday, the Washington Post reported.

The victim told investigators that she woke up to discover the fellow passenger shoving his fingers inside her pants and “vigorously moving them”, according to a federal criminal complaint. She said her shirt was also “unbuttoned”.

Federal prosecutor Amanda Jawad said Ramamoorthy stopped after the victim opened her eyes and then the shaken woman immediately alerted flight attendants.

Two flight attendants told investigators that the victim was crying and that her shirt was untied and pants were unbuttoned when she reported the incident, 40 minutes before the plane’s landing, Jawad said.

The woman was offered a different seat and Ramamoorthy was arrested after the plane landed, the court documents stated.

According to the prosecutor, Ramamoorthy said in a written statement that he had taken a pill and fallen into deep sleep. He said he hadn’t done anything besides learning from his wife that “the woman was sleeping on his knees”.

His wife told officials a similar version and said that they had called the flight attendants to try to change seats. But the prosecutor said that “flight attendants did not report that anyone asked them to change seats other than the victim”.

According to a news report, Ramamoorthy later altered his story and told an FBI agent that he might have unclasped the sleeping woman’s bra “while playing with it”.

The court filing stated that Ramamoorthy also admitted that he “unzipped the woman’s pants part-way and put his finger inside”.

Prosecutor Jawad said Ramamoorthy gave “conflicting reports” about what happened with the victim. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen ordered Ramamoorthy to be held pending trial.

Stephen Schuler, a spokesman for Spirit, said it was cooperating with law enforcement on the incident.

Ramamoorthy made a request to contact the Indian consulate regarding his case.

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