DETROIT – An Indian man living in the U.S. on a work visa was sentenced to nine years in prison Thursday for sexually assaulting a sleeping woman during an overnight flight to Detroit.
Prabhu Ramamoorthy was in a middle seat between the victim and his wife on a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas last January. The 23-year-old victim said he unzipped her pants, unbuttoned her shirt and molested her with his hands.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of nearly 11 years, but U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg settled on a nine-year term. He said he hoped it would be "grave enough" to deter others from committing similar crimes.
A jury convicted Ramamoorthy in August . He will be deported to India after serving his sentence.
The victim, a model, declined an opportunity to speak in court. She watched the hearing from the first row with her boyfriend and a support dog.
At trial, she testified that she woke up during the flight and "saw his hands inside me." She said she felt "petrified, frozen."
"Everyone has the right to be secure and safe when they travel on airplanes. ... We appreciate the victim in this case for her courage to speak out," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said.
Ramamoorthy, 35, has lived in suburban Detroit since arriving in the U.S. on a work visa in 2015. He and his wife were returning to Detroit on the Las Vegas flight after a trip to the Grand Canyon.
Speaking through a Tamil interpreter, Ramamoorthy said he didn't want to make a statement before getting his sentence. The judge noted a lack of remorse but acknowledged that Ramamoorthy had a right to stay silent.
Defense attorney James Amberg asked for a prison sentence of less than 10 years. He said the conviction will bring "severe and lifelong consequences" to Ramamoorthy and his wife when they return to southern India.
"His life is effectively over," Amberg told Berg.
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