Quantcast
Monday, Sept. 22, 2014

Pilot sentenced for groping teenage girl on flight

By Annie Knox, Associated Press

Published: Wed, July 30 10:41 p.m. MDT

 Michael James Pascal walks from the federal courthouse after appearing in court Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Pascal, a former Utah airline pilot, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for groping a 14-year-old girl while he was a passenger on a flight from Detroit to Salt Lake City. He was convicted of abusive sexual contact in March. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Michael James Pascal walks from the federal courthouse after appearing in court Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Pascal, a former Utah airline pilot, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for groping a 14-year-old girl while he was a passenger on a flight from Detroit to Salt Lake City. He was convicted of abusive sexual contact in March. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(Rick Bowmer, AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — A former Utah airline pilot was sentenced Wednesday to more than two years in prison for groping a 14-year-old girl in the seat next to him during an off-duty flight.

Michael James Pascal, 46, of Park City, appeared in federal court Wednesday in Salt Lake City. He wore a navy blue suit and had close-cropped hair.

"Whatever the sentence is, I will accept it," he told the judge, saying he hoped to be a good father during his time in prison.

On the October 2013 Delta Airlines flight, the teenager awoke from a nap and felt Pascal's hand under her, gripping her buttocks, she said, according to court documents. She elbowed him and yelled, "What the hell are you doing?" the records show.

Earlier she had pushed down the armrest between them, but when she woke up, someone had pushed it upright, she said. Pascal pulled his hand out from under her, she recounted, saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I was asleep. I have to use the bathroom."

Pascal told investigators he fell asleep with his hands in his lap and couldn't recall where his hand was when he awoke. He said he had lifted the armrest between him and the girl because the man on his other side was taking up a lot of room.

His attorney Rhome Zabriskie maintained that any contact was inadvertent and that Pascal was asleep.

"When he woke up, he realized he had kind of flopped over on the passenger next to him," he said when Pascal was charged in 2013.

The girl, who was flying alone on the Detroit to Salt Lake City flight, told attendants and changed seats.

She said Pascal earlier in the flight helped her retrieve a blanket from the flight crew after he saw she was on crutches. After she moved, she said, she saw Pascal looking at her in an "annoyed" manner, court documents show.

Pascal lost his job with a regional airline carrier, a Delta Airlines contractor, when he was charged in 2013. In March, a jury convicted him on two counts of abusive sexual contact related to the incident.

"He has suffered an awful lot and it will continue," Zabriskie said Wednesday. Pascal has an 18-year-old daughter of his own and maintained that he was asleep.

A Delta spokesman previously told The Associated Press that the airline cooperated with investigators but declined further comment.

Judge U.S. Magistrate Dale Kimball ordered Pascal to turn himself into to authorities on Sept. 30. He is set to serve his sentence in Colorado, where he has family, and to serve 60 months of probation afterward.

Recommended
1. San Diego
Orem, UT,
July 31, 2014

Sounds like a pretty stiff sentence to me, especially when a rapist in Wyoming got 30 days in jail for multiple instances of rape.

2. mominthetrenches
South Jordan, Utah,
July 31, 2014

Wow! This sentence does seem very harsh. I can see how this could happen to anyone and has now ruined his career. The girl sounds like she handled herself just right, too, in yelling at him and changing seats. Pretty sure she should have just let it go after that and be done.

3. Johnny Triumph
American Fork, UT,
July 31, 2014

@mom - why let it go? it's not like she's suing him for $$$, the law prosecuted him and now has sentenced him. I agree it seems like a harsh sentence but to say the girl should have done nothing is shortsighted. I doubt you would let something like this go, especially if it had been your daughter.

4. K
Mchenry, IL,
July 31, 2014

There could be a law suit. Only what money.. He was fired. He won't earn much in prison.

5. Fullypresent
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

Did anyone tell him that part of being a good dad is keeping your hands off other people's children?