Predators are free to move about the cabin

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

But the girl's family hadn't paid the airline for any special services, so the lawyers attempted to use Warsaw Convention Article 17, which holds airlines responsible if a passenger sustains "bodily injury." The court determined that PTSD didn't qualify as a physical injury, and dismissed the case. The man on the plane, Richard Samson, settled a civil case with the victim for $350,000, according to the girl's lawyer, Baird Brown, who said Samson also pleaded guilty to sexual battery charges. The only story about that case appeared in a legal newspaper, and focused on the judge's decision to throw out the case. Samson's name wasn't even mentioned.


When the news of Senyonga's arrest on molestation charges was reported in several papers, those closest to Senyonga stood by him. Some members of his congregation vowed to support him "to our last drop of saliva."

In a teleconference from the United States, Eve Senyonga told Christian Life Church in Bwaise, Uganda, that she believed her husband was innocent, and Alex Mitala, another Ugandan pastor, told an African newspaper that Senyonga's version of events was plausible. Christopher Songa, a pastor at Christian Life Church, announced to the congregation that the charges were false and had been sensationalized by the media. "Allegations against born-again Christians sell like hot cake," he said.

Although the FBI investigation of Senyonga has been concluded, no charges have been filed by the U.S. Attorney's office. A source close the investigation told SF Weekly that the FBI agents who worked on the case were convinced that the girl was telling the truth, and that she was traumatized. They also believed that when Senyonga moved up three rows to take the middle seat, he did so to take advantage of a young girl who looked weak and insecure — typical predatory behavior. The idea that Senyonga had gained access to a thousand orphaned children fit in with their knowledge of how pedophiles often operate, and greatly disturbed the agents working on the case.

Although they tried to put pressure on the U.S. Attorney's office to take the case, the FBI source said, it was ultimately declined. U.S. Attorney's office spokesman Jack Gillund said he couldn't release any information.

The girl, for her part, had been more than willing to testify.

Whatever the reason the case was declined, Senyonga is back on the preaching circuit in the United States and abroad. Reached at his church in Flower Mound, he sounded less than pleased to hear from a reporter. "I have no comment at this time," he said, then called one of his five lawyers. "We adamantly deny it, obviously," said attorney Michael Betz, who had no other comments.

United Airlines also declined to comment on the case, and similarly refused to answer any questions about its unaccompanied minor program. Through court documents, though, the airline denied legal responsibility for what happened.

The airline's lawyers have argued that the special service ticket for a minor is limited in what it provides. All that the $99 fee means, apparently, is that a child will be helped to board the aircraft, introduced to the flight attendants, chaperoned during connections, and turned over to an appropriate person upon arrival.

So much for United's "thank you for entrusting your child to us."

The girl's mother would like other parents to know that sending a child alone on an airplane and paying extra doesn't mean there are any additional precautions taken. "Look what happened to my daughter," she says.

Christopher Dolan, the attorney whose firm is representing Emily and her mother, says that airlines should be required to seat unaccompanied minors at the front of their aircraft, so they can be more easily monitored by flight attendants. That way, if someone switches seats to be next to a minor, flight attendants are in a position to notice and ask the passenger to return to his or her original seat. "They should do what they are paid for — supervising the child in flight," Dolan says.

Dolan also says that standards for the care of unaccompanied minors should be regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. "This is not the first such incident and it probably will not be the last unless and until this type of transaction is regulated," he said.

Emily, who is now a Bay Area ninth grader, has been deeply affected by what happened on the airplane, her mother says. Her grades have slipped. Her outlook on life is dimmer. She is in counseling. "Our lives just aren't the same anymore," the mother said, "and my daughter is just not the same little girl anymore."

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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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