Man Accused Of Groping Passenger Inflight Successfully Uses The Economy Class Defense

A man accused of groping another passenger on a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to London Heathrow was found not guilty after using the Economy Class defense.

  • The man had been accused of groping a sleeping student sitting next to him while on the flight home from his honeymoon.

  • He claimed that stroking his thigh – “for up to two hours” – was simply the result of being crammed into economy. Where were his hands supposed to go?

The woman says she’d taken sleeping pills, and woke up be to being touched up. She told a flight attendant what happened, and the man was taken off the aircraft by police officers on arrival, arrested, and charged with sexual assault.

This all happened on a flight that departed New Years Eve 2019, landing New Years Day 2020. This was his second trial – the first one ended in a mistrial in February. The man, a financial analyst working for Russian state gas giant Gazprom, testified that he didn’t intentionally touch the woman. And he explained that though he was enroute back from Maui where he’d spent his honeymoon, he was traveling solo and his wife was flying on a less expensive ticket.

Van Den Bergh had told police in interview: ‘You try to keep a distance, but it is quite difficult in Economy.

…’At first [the touching] was light and unnoticeable but it gradually grew in confidence and after two hours I knew that it was intentional [the victim said]…’At one point it went towards where my underwear was, towards the end of my thigh and my bum. ‘I felt like he was picking at my underwear and feeling the contours of it, as though he was sort of lifting the seam a little bit.

In addition to claiming “economy” he said that this all happened while he was asleep. The jury took just 2 hours and 43 minutes to deliberate.

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