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Conviction Upheld Against Airline Passenger for Sexually Abusing Another Passenger

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 12, 2019 2:59 PM

Traveling on an international flight, Juan Pablo Price sat down next to a female passenger who was sleeping and fondled her.

He was arrested, charged, and convicted of sex abuse. In his appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, he argued that his victim seemed to invite the encounter.

In USA v. Price, the appeals court said -- in more legal terms -- you have got to be kidding.

'Consent'

Price, a 46-year-old man, was convicted and sentenced to three years of probation. He appealed based on a jury instruction regarding "consent."

At trial, he testified that he sat down next to the young woman and felt her hand touch his. Thinking it might be an invitation, he began to rub her hand.

He said he moved his hands to her breast area, and thought she was "enjoying herself." Then the woman, more than 20 years younger than Price, woke up.

She panicked, tried to move away in her seat, but he persisted. Price placed a blanket over them, she said, continued to grab her breast and then reached into her pants and touched her vagina.

The woman alerted a flight attendant, and the pilot sent a message to airport authorities. They investigated, and a grand jury indicted Price under 18 U.S.C. Section 2244(b).

'Knowingly'

The statute punishes anyone who "knowingly engages in sexual contact with another person without that other person's permission." Price argued that he did not knowingly commit the crime because he thought the woman consented.

The Ninth Circuit said his argument was "absurd." Consent is not based on subjective, but rather objective terms.

Even if it were a subjective test, the appeals court said, it was "clear beyond a reasonable doubt that Price subjectively knew that he did not have permission to have sexual contact" with the victim.

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