ATLANTA - A Delta Air Lines passenger is facing federal charges after prosecutors say he sexually assaulted a female passenger on a flight to Atlanta.
William Charles Pelletier, 35 of Andover, Maine, was indicted on an abusive sexual contact charge Tuesday.
Prosecutors say Pelletier was on a flight from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Atlanta in November when he became unruly and then grabbed a woman’s chest.
“It’s appalling conduct,” U.S. Attorney Bjay Pak told Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant.
He said his office is cracking down on sexual assaults in the sky.
“Everyone has a right to travel without having any type of harassment, particularly unwanted sexual contact on flights,” he said. “I particularly worry about a lot of times when you have unaccompanied minors traveling, we have to be vigilant in protecting the safety of these passengers.”
Pak told us he’s also troubled by a recent surge he’s seen in similar mid-flight incidents. There have been more than 80 nationwide over just the last three years.
“I think that’s very underreported. A lot of times, I don’t think that people take this type of incident seriously on planes,” he said.
Pak said his office’s goal is to get in front of this and deter this type of conduct.
“A lot of times, when incidents like this happen mid-flight, some of the local jurisdictions who would normally handle these types of cases don’t know whether or not they have proper jurisdiction to do it,” he said.
Georgia State Law School’s Jessica Cino says that confusion can have consequences.
“That, of course, leads to the victim kind of getting the run around of 'Well, who is going to take charge of this case?' and it kind of falls through the cracks,” she said.
Pak said all airlines need to pay attention.
“I think that they should be more vigilant and train their employees to spot these types of incidents and have a protocol when a passenger does, in fact, complain,” he said.
In a written statement, a Delta spokesperson told us, “While Delta can’t comment on the specifics of this ongoing case out of respect for the judicial process, there is absolutely no place for sexual assault or unruly behavior of any kind on Delta as it is an affront to the values of our people, business and customers.”
Prosecutors say they'll try to get word to Pelletier to turn himself in. If they can't, they'll get an arrest warrant.
Our attempts to contact Pelletier today were not successful.
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