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Man gets 6 months for sexual assault of airplane passenger

By Vivian Kuo, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Georgia man convicted of sexual assault of sleeping passenger
  • Woman says she woke up and fellow passenger was touching her
  • He touched her below the waist again after she complained, she says

(CNN) -- A Georgia man was sentenced to six months in federal prison on charges of sexually assaulting a sleeping passenger during a flight from Dallas to Atlanta, federal authorities said Tuesday.

FBI agents arrested Ranchhodbhai Lakha of Alpharetta, Georgia, on October 4, 2010, after a 20-year-old woman filed a complaint about being inappropriately touched on the Delta flight.

According to the federal indictment, the woman said she awoke during the trip to discover the 61-year-old former hotel owner touching her below the waist.

She removed his hand and told him to stop, documents said.

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

After the woman got up and reported the assault to a flight attendant, authorities arrested Lakha on a federal criminal complaint of sexual assault.

"This defendant thought he could get away with taking advantage of a defenseless, sleeping passenger sitting next to him. He was wrong. He will now serve time in a federal prison," U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said Tuesday.

Lakha pleaded guilty to a charge of abusive sexual contact on June 29, 2011. In addition to serving six months in prison, he must serve one year of supervised release, and was fined $5,000.

Lakha also is required to register as a sex offender.

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