The 16-year-old victim was on a flight back home after taking part in a hockey tournament.
A Minneapolis man of Indian descent, Neeraj Chopra, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for engaging in abusive sexual contact on an airplane. Acting U.S. Attorney Charles J. Kovats made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Nancy E. Brasel sentenced the defendant.
According to the one-page indictment, Chopra violated a sex crime statute on a Jet Blue flight on April 8, 2019 “by touching” a 16-year-old victim’s “groin over clothing.” Forty-one-year-old Chopra repeatedly made “abusive sexual contact” with the teen boy seated next to him, who “began to cry” on the flight home after competing in a hockey tournament.
The sentencing memo noted that during the second leg of the trip home from a hockey tournament in Buffalo, New York, attended by numerous family members, the minor boy had taken a window seat on Jet Blue Flight 1735 from Boston to Minneapolis. Chopra, seated next to him, retrieved a blanket from his backpack and draped it over his lap, with a portion of the blanket also covering the victim’s right leg. When he started touching the boy, the teenager asked him to remove his hands from his leg, Neeraj initially apologised and removed his hands. But it did not stop there.
He then took out his tablet and initiated his victim in conversation, bringing up his background in IT, showing the boy images on the screen, “including photos of himself and his friends partying.” He also asked the boy if he wanted to “hang out some time,” the memo said.
Thereafter, Neeraj put his tray table down, put his head on it pretending to be asleep while continuing to touch the youngster inappropriately to the extent that he began to cry. Chopra ignored the victim’s multiple requests to stop and continued to touch him. The boy took photographs of Neeraj’s hands on his thighs taken over a period of 10 to 15 minutes.
When the teen’s family members became aware of his distressing ordeal, they contacted a flight attendant and asked her to check on Chopra. When law enforcement officers met Chopra at the gate, he admitted to touching the boy inappropriately, but said it was because he was asleep and was having a bad dream “about a family member being killed.”