Predators are free to move about the cabin

The girl flew as an unaccompanied minor, and she's still experiencing turbulence.

Alameda County sheriff's deputies concluded that Senyonga wasn't credible for a number of reasons, including his unusual willingness to accept blame. A deputy also noted that Senyonga's denials were weak and without emotion. "Based on the totality of the circumstances, I believe Senyonga targeted [Emily] and was aware she was a child," the officer wrote. "It is my belief; Senyonga tried to minimize his actions and took advantage of the situation."


Unsurprisingly, denials in airplane molestation cases are popular, and they tend to work. In at least two cases, men who the FBI believed were guilty beat federal charges, and one of those cases looks strikingly similar to Senyonga's.

In 2001, Ravichandra Thuluva, a 28-year-old from Mumbai, India, was seated next to a 10-year-old girl on a flight from Kansas City to Detroit. After the girl deplaned, she immediately told her stepfather that the man had put his hand down her pants and into her shirt. She said that although she slapped his hand away numerous times, he kept at it.

The girl then pointed Thuluva out to the authorities as he waited to board a flight to the Netherlands, and he denied it all. He had only placed his hand on her thigh on two occasions to calm her, he told the FBI. There were no witnesses, and in 2005, a jury acquitted Thuluva.

But U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen, who presided over a civil suit against the airline, saw merit in the case. He rejected a long line of motions to dismiss, and the girl and her family ended up settling with Northwest Airlines for more than $500,000. A key part of their argument was the $40 extra that the family had paid for their daughter to be placed in the airline's "unaccompanied minor program." On her flight, there were about 10 other unaccompanied minors, making it difficult for attendants to monitor all of them, Rosen pointed out.

In another airplane molestation case tried in federal criminal court, Ronald Evan Mays was convicted, but the verdict was thrown out after a judge admitted evidence improperly. Two witnesses and an 8-year-old girl had testified against Mays, who switched seats to sit next to the girl on a Southwest flight in 2006. The girl said Mays touched her thighs and continuously touched his penis throughout the flight. At one point, she said, he placed a Southwest napkin map of the United States in his lap and asked the girl to point out cities.

A witness on the flight had even reported Mays' behavior to a flight attendant, but nothing came of it until the girl disembarked in Detroit and told a grandparent what had happened.

The subsequent investigation of Mays revealed he deleted thousands of files from his computers at work, some of which contained child pornography. But the judge, Steven Merryday, mistakenly allowed that into evidence, so the conviction of Mays had to be thrown out. Prosecutors decided to drop the case rather than put the young girl through the trauma of a second trial.

Although Mays was later convicted of obstructing the investigation, his name does not appear in the National Sex Offender Registry.

There are more examples of adult male passengers switching seats to be next to minors. On Jan. 6, 2007, a passenger aboard a Delta Airlines flight from San Diego to Atlanta switched seats mid-flight to be next to an 11-year-old flying by herself. According to a complaint filed in the State Court of Fulton County, the man began forcefully kissing the child, and jabbing his hands into her stomach (she was later treated for a ruptured ovary, the complaint states). He also touched her face and his penis at the same, claiming he had an itch.

When her assailant got up from his seat, the girl asked a flight attendant to be moved, but according to the complaint, her request was denied. The girl had to ask a second time before the flight attendant agreed to move her.

Upon leaving the plane, the girl told her mother what happened, and the mother reported the events to airline officials, who she says declined to help and referred her to the police. The mother then reported the molestation to her hometown police in Huntsville, Alabama, the Atlanta police, and eventually the FBI, but no suspect was ever identified, and no criminal charges filed. The family's lawyer, Mark Tate, says he believes the case simply wasn't a priority. He also says airlines need to be more vigilant in regards to seat-swapping.

"These people are predators," Tate said. "It's not something they just fall into. They plan it. The airlines have a duty to understand what they're doing when they have these minors on board." The settlement between his client and Delta Airlines is confidential, Tate said.

Not all molestation victims have been able to sue the airline. A California District Court of Appeals threw out a civil case last year involving a girl who fell asleep on a United Airlines flight and woke up with a man holding her hand near his penis. Because United Airlines failed to protect her, the girl's lawyer argued, she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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3 comments
tspoon765
tspoon765

The above facts, when coupled with the knowledge that the vast, vast majority of child abuse and child sex abuse are performed by someone the minor knows, can only lead us to conclude that the purpose of such policy cannot rationally be the protection of minors. The minors in question would in fact be safer seated next to strangers, male or female. Yet there is no policy of removing minors from the comparitively risky proximity of their parents while on board aircraft.

 The only achievement of such policy is the ritual humiliation of males. I would need a lot of convincing not to conclude that this was also it's prime intent.

Puzzled
Puzzled

Let's see.  Hundreds of thousands of children per year travel alone.  We're told that one airline had more than 400,000.  A fair estimate would be 1 million total, which is probably low.  So in 20 years, that's 20,000,000.  In those same 20 years, they found 10 incidents, although there's dramatic language stating there could be more - let's say there were 20.  20/20,000,000 = 1/1million.  So if your child flies unaccompanied, they have a 1 in a million chance of being molested - high end.  What are their chances of dying in the bathroom?  Being in a car accident?  Being struck by lightening?  No, please, let's panic like crazy people about this literally 1 in a million chance.  

 

Now, on average, those children probably sat next to 1 person, who half the time was male.  So, there are 250,000 instances of males sitting next to children, meaning that, with roughly (high end) 1 molestation per year, a male sitting next to a child has a 1 in 250,000 chance of molesting them.  Is that a good reason to label all males as likely pedophiles?  Is that a good reason to humiliate any male who ends up sitting next to a child?

 

Meanwhile, next to this article there is a link to another one dealing with the unfortunate fact that so many young black males are accused of being in gangs.  I suspect it is for the same reason that so many males in general are accused of being child rapists.

 
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