Chief U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger ordered 29-year-old Siva K. Durbesula, originally from India, to spend two years behind bars and then complete 10 years of supervised release and pay a $5,000 assessment.
Durbesula was a passenger aboard a flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport headed to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on June 23, 2019, when he sexually assaulted the 22-year-old woman seated next to him, according to court documents, witness testimony and evidence presented at trial.
The victim testified during the trial that Durbesula pulled her toward him and groped her repeatedly midflight, the Justice Department said. Court records show that after the flight crew moved Durbesula away from the victim, he asked to return to his previous seat so he could speak to the victim again.
Durbesula was convicted by a jury of abusive sexual contact aboard an airplane.
On Thursday, the federal judge in North Carolina handed Durbesula the statutory maximum prison term for the offense. Reidinger noted that the defendant’s repeated sexual misconduct over a short period of time required the maximum statutory punishment to promote respect for the law.
During the trial, a second witness had testified that Durbesula on March 21, 2019, pinned her into the corner on a New York City subway train and groped her. The victim in the subway incident recorded Durbesula exiting the train, which helped police identify him.
Charges related to that incident were still pending when Durbesula assaulted the woman aboard the flight from Illinois to South Carolina approximately three months later.
His sentencing announcement was made Friday by William T. Stetzer, acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina; M. Rhett DeHeart, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina; and Robert R. Wells, special agent in charge for the FBI in Charlotte.
The case was originally indicted in the District of South Carolina and was later transferred to the Western District of North Carolina. Durbesula is currently in federal custody. He will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.