Man charged after allegedly groping passenger's crotch on flight
© Greg Nash

A man accused of grabbing a woman's crotch on an American Airlines flight, resulting in the plane making an emergency landing, is facing federal charges, the Justice Department Northern District of Oklahoma announced Friday.

James Clayton Cholewinski-Boyd, 32, boarded the plane traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina to Salt Lake City and sat between a woman and her daughter, CNN reported. He allegedly began touching the woman’s arm, even after she pushed him away.

He then allegedly “forcibly grabbed her by the crotch," and she pushed him away as he “threw up his hands and said ‘sorry,’” the criminal complaint filed Friday said. The pilot then diverted the plane to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Cholewinski-Boy was arrested by airport police for public intoxication, CNN reported.


He was released Wednesday by the Tulsa Municipal Jail, CNN reported, before being charged with abusive sexual conduct by the Justice Department Friday.

"The public should know these allegations pertain to criminal sexual misconduct by Mr. Cholewinski-Boy against a female passenger, not a threat to the plane or air travel," U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, Trent Shores, said in a statement.  

American Airlines said in a statement to The Hill: "We want to thank our crew, who once they became aware of this behavior, immediately separated the mother and her daughter on the flight. They subsequently requested law enforcement and diverted the aircraft to Tulsa. The quick actions of our crew ensured the safety and wellbeing of our customers on the flight."

Reports of sexual assault during flights have increased, the FBI said in a release last year. In fiscal year 2014, 38 cases of sexual assault on airlines were reported to the FBI.  

“In the last fiscal year, that number increased to 63 reported cases,” the 2018 release said.