A Canadian man was sentenced to six months in prison for groping a flight attendant during a flight from Mexico to Miami last year, court records show.
The 50-year-old man was sentenced Monday in federal court in Miami. He had pleaded guilty in October to one count of simple assault within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, a misdemeanor, court records show.
The incident happened Aug. 6 when the flight attendant was handing out packages of snacks on an American Airlines flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Miami.
She put the package in his lap because she though he was asleep, turned to help others, and the man grabbed her thigh and buttocks, according to court documents.
The flight attendant yelled to stop and the man “mumbled a response that was not intelligible,” an FBI affidavit filed in the case says.
The man, who is free on bond, must report to prison by March 28.
His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.
After the incident, several other flight passengers approached the flight attendant and expressed their shock, and that they were willing to describe what happened to police, according to the criminal complaint.
Publicly available court documents did not appear to give any explanation for the man’s behavior.
What officials called a dramatic increase in violent or disruptive behavior on flights prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt a “zero tolerance” stance last January.
In 2021 there were more 5,981 “unruly passenger reports,” most of which involved federal requirements that face masks be worn due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the FAA.
The FAA has fined passengers thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.
In December, the agency announced a proposed $7,500 fine for a passenger on Atlanta-to-Chicago flight who took off their face masks, bothered other fliers and grabbed a flight attendant’s buttocks.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal prosecutors in November to prioritize prosecution of federal crimes on planes that endanger the safety of passengers or flight staff.
Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.
The Associated Press