Airplane Assault Lands Indian in Prison for Nine Years

DETROIT: An Indian man living in the U.S. on a work visa was sentenced to nine years in prison Dec. 13 for sexually assaulting a sleeping woman during an overnight flight to Detroit.

Prabhu Ramamoorthy was in a middle seat between the victim and his wife when he assaulted the woman on an overnight Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Detroit on Jan. 3. As she slept in the window seat next to him, the 23-year-old victim said Ramamoorthy unbuttoned her top, fondled her breasts, unzipped her pants and digitally penetrated her. His wife sat in the aisle seat adjacent to his.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of nearly 11 years, but U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg settled on a nine-year term. He said he hoped it would be “grave enough” to deter others from committing similar crimes.

Ramamoorthy was convicted by a jury in August after a five-day trial. The jury deliberated approximately 3 1/2 hours before returning the guilty verdict. He will be deported to India after serving his sentence. Ramamoorthy, has lived in suburban Detroit since arriving in the U.S. on a work visa in 2015. He and his wife were returning to Detroit on the Las Vegas flight after a trip to the Grand Canyon.

According to the Detroit Free Press, 35-year-old Ramamoorthy, who is in the U.S. from India on a work visa with his wife, declined to speak at the sentencing hearing. He hung his head and cried as he shuffled out of the courtroom in shackles.The victim, a model, declined an opportunity to speak in court. She watched the hearing from the first row with her boyfriend and a support dog.
At trial, she testified that she woke up during the flight and “saw his hands inside me.” She said she felt “petrified, frozen.”

“Everyone has the right to be secure and safe when they travel on airplanes,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement on Thursday.

“We will not tolerate the behavior of anyone who takes advantage of victims who are in a vulnerable position. We appreciate the victim in this case for her courage to speak out,” Schneider added.
Speaking through a Tamil interpreter, Ramamoorthy said he didn’t want to make a statement before getting his sentence. Defense attorney James Amberg asked for a prison sentence of less than 10 years. He said the conviction will bring “severe and lifelong consequences” to Ramamoorthy and his wife when they return to southern India.

Amberg also said that his client had already been assaulted in prison since his arrest months ago, and that he faces a lifetime of shunning when he returns to India. “He will suffer long after this sentence is done,’ Amberg said.”