"Planes are not a law-free zone," US Attorney for the Western District of Washington Annette Hayes said Thursday, announcing charges against two men accused of "disturbing" sexual assaults aboard airplanes bound for Seattle. In the first case, 41-year-old Babak Rezapour of California is accused of groping a 21-year-old woman who’d taken prescription anti-anxiety and anti-nausea medication with a glass of wine aboard a Jan. 10 Norwegian Airlines flight from London to Seattle. The woman had difficulty staying awake after Rezapour gave her a second glass of wine, and awoke repeatedly to find him touching her thigh, rubbing her heel against his genitals, lying with his face in her lap, and with his hand in her shirt and pants, prosecutors say, per the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The woman was later found crying and shaking on the floor, reports the Guardian.
Rezapour—whose DNA was found in the woman's underwear, according to authorities—is charged with abusive sexual contact aboard an airliner, as is Nicholas Stevens, 37, of Alaska. He's accused of using his position in an aisle seat to force himself on a 22-year-old woman in a window seat on a March 8 Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to Seattle. The woman said Stevens talked about killing animals and joked about killing people before saying he wanted to do "dirty things" to her. She was found "visibly upset and shaking" after Stevens allegedly touched her breast and thigh multiple times, per the Post-Intelligencer. The FBI notes a 30% increase in reports of sexual assault aboard planes in the last four years is tied to an increase in reporting. But "we need the flying public's help," Hayes says. "We can make a difference." (Read more sexual assault stories.)