FOLLOW-UP: An airline passenger admitted in federal court Thursday that he sexually touched a sleeping stranger aboard a flight from Los Angeles to Newark.
Veerabhadrarao Kunam, 58, of Visakhapatnam, India, pleaded guilty before a federal magistrate judge in Newark to assault in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.
Kunam “was seated next to a woman who occupied a middle seat on a Virgin America redeye flight from Los Angeles to [Newark Liberty International Airport]," U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. "While the plane was in the air, the woman fell asleep.
“She awoke to find Kunam massaging her genitals and rubbing his bare feet against her bare feet,” the U.S. Attorney said.
The woman “alerted her male travel companion who traded seats with the victim and confronted Kunam,” Fishman said.
“Kunam allegedly told the victim’s travel companion that he wanted everyone to forget about the incident and offered to buy the travel companion a drink for any trouble he may have caused.
“The travel companion declined Kunam’s offer and alerted a flight crew member about what had occurred,” he said.
A flight crew member “then moved Kunam to another seat and instructed him not to return to his original seat,” Fishman said.
Kunam then “told the flight crew member that he would not touch the victim again.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson scheduled sentencing for March 22.
The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over all sexual abuse cases that occur on aircraft in flight in the United States.