Man Allegedly Groped Sleeping Woman on Flight Before Offering a Free Drink 'for Any Trouble'
The suspect has pleaded not guilty to the charge and is out on bond, authorities tell PEOPLE
A 58-year-old man is accused of groping a sleeping female passenger seated next to him on a recent overnight flight to New Jersey, after which he allegedly tried to brush off the incident with an offer of a free drink, PEOPLE has confirmed.
Veerabhadrarao Kunam was arrested Saturday and charged with one count of abusive sexual contact soon after his Virgin America flight from Los Angeles landed in Newark, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on bond following a Monday court hearing, defense attorney Alex Spiro tells PEOPLE.
Spiro declined to comment on the allegations against Kunam, but said he would be investigating the incident to determine all the facts.
Investigators allege in a criminal complaint that Kunam had been massaging the private parts and buttocks of a female passenger over her clothes. The woman was seated in the middle seat next to him on the flight and had fallen asleep, according to the complaint.
Kunam was also allegedly “rubbing his bare feet against the [victim’s] bare feet,” according to the complaint.
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The woman awoke on the flight to find Kunam allegedly still groping her, according to the complaint, and her friend, seated by the window on their row, also witnessed the alleged crime.
The victim and her friend traded seats and the friend “confronted” Kunam, who allegedly told them “he wanted everyone to forget about the incident and offered to buy [the friend] a drink for any trouble he may have caused,” according to the complaint.
She declined and instead alerted a member of the flight crew, who ordered Kunam into another seat, according to the complaint.
A Virgin America spokesman described the flight member’s actions as quick-thinking: “Our crew are trained for such situations, and they immediately moved the individual in question to another seat, monitored him to ensure he did not move from his seat, and alerted law enforcement,” he tells PEOPLE.
Kunam, who federal authorities say is from Visakhapatnam, India, has been described in local reports as a businessman.
According to The Hindu, he runs a seafood exporting company in India.