SALT LAKE CITY (WWJ/AP) – A former Utah airline pilot was sentenced Wednesday to more than two years in prison for groping a 14-year-old girl in the seat next to him during an off-duty flight out of Detroit.
Michael James Pascal, 46, of Park City, appeared in federal court Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
“Whatever the sentence is, I will accept it,” he told the judge, saying he hoped to be a good father during his time in prison.
On the October 2013 Delta Airlines flight, the teenager awoke from a nap and felt Pascal’s hand under her, gripping her buttocks, she said, according to court documents. His hand, she said, was “far enough under her buttocks that his fingers were touching her inner thigh.” Pascal’s eyes were open and he “was clearly awake,” the teenager told investigators.
The girl elbowed Pascal and yelled, “What the hell are you doing?” the records show. She was sitting in a window seat and Pascal was in the middle seat.
Earlier, she said, she had pushed down the armrest between them but when she woke up, someone had pushed it upright, she said. Pascal pulled his hand out from under her, she recounted, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was asleep, I have to use the bathroom.”
Pascal told investigators he fell asleep with his hands in his lap and couldn’t recall where his hand was when he awoke. He said he had lifted the armrest between him and the girl because the man on his other side was taking up a lot of room. His attorney Rhome Zabriskie maintained that any contact was inadvertent and that Pascal was asleep.
“When he woke up, he realized he had kind of flopped over on the passenger next to him,” he said when Pascal was charged in 2013.
The girl, who was flying alone on the Detroit to Salt Lake City flight, told attendants and changed seats.
She said Pascal seemed nice earlier in the flight when he helped her retrieve a blanket from the flight crew after he saw she was on crutches. After the incident, she said, she noticed Pascal looking at her in an “annoyed” manner, court documents show.
Pascal lost his job with a regional airline carrier, a Delta Airlines contractor, when he was charged in 2013. In March, a jury convicted him on two counts of abusive sexual contact related to the incident.
“He has suffered an awful lot and it will continue,” Zabriskie said Wednesday. Pascal has an 18-year-old daughter of his own.
A Delta spokesman previously told The Associated Press that the airline cooperated with investigators but declined further comment.
Judge U.S. Magistrate Dale Kimball ordered Pascal to turn himself into to authorities on Sept. 30. He is set to serve his sentence in Colorado, where he has family, and to serve 60 months of probation afterward.
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