TAMPA, Fla. – A 46-year-old Palm Harbor businessman could face up to 25 years in prison after being convicted in federal court Friday of sexually touching an 8-year-old girl who was sitting next to him on an airplane.
A jury deliberated more than five hours before finding Ronald Evan Mays guilty of abusive sexual contact with a child, assault and obstruction of justice.
The girl, who was flying alone on a Southwest Airlines flight from Tampa to Nashville, Tenn., en route to Detroit to visit her grandmother in June, testified that Mays pulled her legs onto his lap and caressed her thigh.
He also reached across her to touch the plane's window and placed his forearm against her chest, she told the jury, and touched his pants frequently throughout the flight.
Mays' attorney claimed it was someone else on the flight -- which did not have assigned seating -- who committed the abuse. The girl picked his picture out of a lineup and a woman on the flight identified Mays as the one who was sitting next to the girl.
Prosecutors said Mays also used a software program to destroy files on his computer after the government had requested it. Some of the files were recovered and show scenes of child pornography, prosecutors said.
Mays will be sentenced later.