Last updated: 11:00 AM ET, Wed August 26 2015

Priest Sentenced to Prison for Sexual Abuse Aboard Los Angeles-Bound Flight

Impacting Travel | Patrick Clarke | August 26, 2015

Priest Sentenced to Prison for Sexual Abuse Aboard Los Angeles-Bound Flight

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A Catholic priest was sentenced to six months in prison and an additional six months of home confinement Monday after being found guilty of committing felony abusive sexual contact aboard a US Airways flight traveling from Philadelphia to Los Angeles last year, the Associated Press reported.

The sentencing comes three months after a jury found 46-year-old Marcelo de Jesumaria guilty of touching a sleeping female passenger's buttocks, breast and groin during the cross-country flight in August 2014.

After the victim, who is a model, reported the incident to flight attendants, she was moved to another seat and Jesumaria was arrested by the FBI upon landing in Los Angeles. 

When questioned by an FBI agent, Jesumaria said that he changed his seat to be next to the woman, admitting that he enjoys "cozy flights" with women but denying any inappropriate contact. Prosecutors said Jesumaria was able to change seats by lying to a flight attendant, claiming that the woman was his wife. 

"So I was asleep and woke up (because) I could feel someone touching me," the woman wrote in a text to her agent following the incident, per court records via the AP. "This creep next to me was groping me...He had a full-on grip and then I woke up and he wouldn't let go of me."

Flight attendants described the woman as "pale, shaking and on the verge of tears."

Jesumaria has since been removed from his position with the church and will begin his sentence within the next two months. 

"We removed him from ministry in the diocese immediately after we became aware of this allegation in November," the Diocese of San Bernardino, California said in a statement via the AP. "We are deeply regretful of any harm that may have occurred as a result of his actions."

U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Thom Mrozek told the AP that the woman, who flies regularly for work, said she feels fearful and anxious when she flies as a result of the incident. 

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