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Man accused of assaulting airline passenger

By the CNN Wire Staff
A 20-year-old woman said she was sexually assualted while she slept on a Delta flight from Dallas to Atlanta.
A 20-year-old woman said she was sexually assualted while she slept on a Delta flight from Dallas to Atlanta.
  • Passenger is accused of assault during Delta flight
  • Woman, 20, was asleep when assault began, indictment says
  • The defendant has a court hearing this month

(CNN) -- A Georgia man has been indicted on charges that he sexually assaulted a 20-year-old passenger while she was asleep during a flight from Dallas, Texas, to Atlanta, Georgia, federal authorities said Wednesday.

The woman said she awoke during the September 28 Delta flight to discover Ranchhodbhai Lakha, 61, of Alpharetta, Georgia, touching her below the waist. She removed his hand and told him to stop, the federal indictment states.

Lakha responded by asking her, "Is that OK? You don't like that?" according to the complaint. The woman said no and moved her body to protect herself, but Lakha reached down and touched her again, the indictment alleges.

The woman got up and reported the assault to a flight attendant, officials said in a press release.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents indicated that there may have been other incidents involving Lakha, possibly in Alabama, the statement said.

Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Atlanta, said he did not know whether the other cases may have involved commercial flights.

Anyone who may have been victimized is asked to call the FBI in Atlanta at 404-679-9000.

Lakha is in custody and has a tentative initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate on October 25, Crosby said. He has not entered a plea.

A call to his attorney was not immediately returned.

"Sexual assault is a crime wherever it happens, including airplanes," U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in the statement. "Many passengers let their guard down or even fall asleep in the closed, often crowded environment of an airplane, which makes this kind of sexual assault so deplorable."

The indictment charges one count of assault, two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of attempt to engage in a sexual act with someone who is physically incapable of declining participation or communicating unwillingness to engage in a sexual act. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, officials said.

Crosby said he did not know whether Lakha has a record.