An off-duty pilot who has been accused of groping a 14-year-old passenger who fell asleep next to him on a flight is set to appear in federal court later today.
Michael Pascal, 45, has been charged with abusive sexual contact on an aircraft after he allegedly touched an unaccompanied minor on Delta Flight 855 from Detroit to Salt Lake City Saturday, according to a criminal complaint obtained by ABC News. Pascal is a pilot for a regional airline that operates flights as Delta Connection.
Pascal was sitting next to the alleged victim when the teen says she lowered the arm rest between them and fell asleep, the criminal complaint states. The teen, who was on crutches with a broken foot, said that when she awoke, the armrest was upright and Pascal’s hand was “far enough under her buttocks that his fingers were touching her inner thigh,” according to the complaint.
She says she elbowed Pascal in the arm and stated, “What the hell are you doing?”
The teen, who was only identified as R.S. in the complaint, notified the flight crew and was moved to another seat.
Pascal, according to the complaint, told the teen, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was asleep. I have to use the bathroom.”
Police met the plane when it landed in Salt Lake City and Pascal was later arrested.
Pascal’s attorney told ABC News in a statement his client “had fallen asleep and while sleeping wound up leaning on the person next to him. He had no intention in causing harm or any kind of offense to anyone.”
Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael Kraut said, “It comes down to a he said, she said. And a jury’s going to have to decide which one to believe.”
Kraut has no affiliation with the case.
In a statement, Delta Air Lines says it is “fully cooperating with law enforcement.”
It’s the latest case of airline passengers allegedly becoming victims. Adam Bartsch, a federal Air Marshal, was accused earlier this month of taking cellphone pictures up the dresses of female passengers.
Bartsch, 28, was immediately removed from duty and is in the process of being suspended or fired, Assistant Supervisory Air Marshal in Charge Michael Pascarella told The Associated Press.
He is due in court Nov. 14.