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Alleged in-flight breast groper ‘invoked Donald Trump’

November 5, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A man with allegedly hairy hands and dirty fingernails, accused of groping the breast of the female airline passenger sitting in front of him, is said to have invoked Donald Trump after being arrested, claiming “the President of the United States says it’s OK to grab women by their private parts”.

That statement, allegedly by the accused, appears in a criminal complaint filed in the US state of New Mexico, accusing Bruce Michael Alexander, 49, of groping a woman on a Southwest Airlines flight from Houston Texas to Albuquerque New Mexico.

FBI agents arrested Alexander on a charge of abusive sexual contact after the flight.

According to the criminal complaint, Alexander allegedly had sexual contact with a female passenger (to whom he was a “total stranger”) while they were on a flight from Houston to Albuquerque.

The criminal complaint alleges that the sexual contact consisted of groping the victim, who was seated in the row in front of Alexander, leading the victim to request that flight attendants move her to a different seat.

An affidavit by FBI Special Agent Michael Hopkins lays out the substance of the complaint.

The female complainant is referred to as C.W.

The complaint states:

 According to C.W., while a passenger on Flight 5421, she felt a hand from behind her grab the right-side of her right breast. C.W. was seated in a window seat, in the row in front of ALEXANDER. ALEXANDER was also seated in a window seat. C.W. shared the row with a man, G.L. who sat in the aisle. ALEXANDER shared the row with a man who remains unidentified.

 C.W. fell asleep after boarding the aircraft and approximately 15 to 20 minutes into the flight, felt a movement of the right side of her sweater. She felt her clothes move and a touching of fingers on her right side at and around her “bra line.” C.W. saw a hand and assumed the touching was an accident. Approximately 30 minutes after the first touch, C.W. felt fingers slowly grab the back of her arm, squeezing above the elbow, then slowly and “attentively” grope her right side, again at and around her ribs and “bra line.”

 C.W. demonstrated the area that was touched to law enforcement agents/officers no less than three times and gestured at an area inclusive of her right breast. C.W. said she saw a hand that had thick fingers, were hairy and dirty fingernails. 

According to C.W., after she felt the second touch, she rose from her seat, turned around and told the passenger behind her that she didn’t know why he thought it was ok [to touch her] and he needed to stop. C.W. then asked a Southwest Airlines crewmember to be reseated to another section of the aircraft. The crewmember relocated C.W. to a seat in the rear of the aircraft.

Will fingernails prove to be the clincher?

According to FBI agent Hopkins:

Upon visual examination of ALEXANDER’S hands, his fingers were of a diameter that could be considered thick. ALEXANDER is older and worked as a heavy equipment operator, as well as being heavier set than what might be considered an average build. ALEXANDER’S hands did not appear overly hair [sic], though his skin was pale and his hair was darker, presenting more of a contrast. Several of ALEXANDER’S finger nail had dark build up underneath the nail and appeared dirty.

A conviction on the abusive sexual contact charge carries a maximum penalty of two years of imprisonment and a USD 250,000 fine.  Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.

Alexander was handcuffed after his arrest and placed in an FBI vehicle, where he told authorities later that “the President of the United States says it’s OK to grab women by their private parts,” according to the criminal complaint.

(This, if it occurred as alleged, would presumably have been a reference to the infamous off-the-cuff comment made by Donald Trump in 2005 when he didn’t know he was being recorded.)

The Southwest Airlines case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and the Albuquerque Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Jack Burkhead. A copy of the complaint filed in the US District Court for the District of New Mexico can be inspected on the US Department of Justice site here.

Regardless of the outcome of that specific case, sexual misconduct on planes is not new and is reported anecdotally to be increasing. A US survey of 2000 flight attendants in 2017 found that one in five had received a report of passenger-on-passenger sexual assault.

In Australia, a recent survey by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) of 419 cabin crew working for Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Tigerair found 65% said they had been harassed by either a colleague or a passenger.

Incidents in Australia ranging from serious sexual assault, groping, passengers exposing themselves, sexualised comments, and workers being abused because of their sexual orientation. The TWU survey found that 69% of the incidents were never reported.

Written by Peter Needham

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