A man has been fined $5,000 and faces potential jail time after fondling a sleeping woman on a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Pittsburgh last year.
According to the Associated Press, 59-year-old Wei-Ming Shi plead guilty to simple assault on an aircraft during flight Monday. However, Shi could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and probation when he appears in front of a federal judge in March.
Shi’s original charges carried a total of up to five years behind bars.
While the man’s attorney claims the Pennsylvania native believed the victim, who is in her 20s, was “flirting” with him prior to falling asleep on the August 18, 2016, flight, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman refuted the notion, saying the woman was simply being friendly toward her fellow passenger.
The victim said she fell asleep on the flight and was later awoke by Shi when he reached under her dress to touch her thigh, buttocks and lower back.
“She was not flirting by any means,” said Kaufman.
U.S. District Judge John Walton said Shi displayed “repulsive behavior,” according to the AP.
Several passengers have reported incidents of unwanted touching, with some victims even filing complaints against airlines for failing to respond appropriately.
This past summer, United Airlines came under fire after a teenager flying solo from Seattle to Newark awoke to find another passenger groping her. The girl and her family were critical of the carrier and alleged it violated its own policy by failing to alert authorities.
Similarly disturbing incidents have been handled much more effectively by other airlines.