Priest Sentenced for Sexual Abuse on Flight

     LOS ANGELES – A Catholic priest who groped a sleeping woman on a flight from Philadelphia to LA will spend six months in federal prison, the Justice Department said Monday.
     A federal jury found Marcelo De Jesumaria, 46, guilty of abusive sexual contact – a federal felony – this past May. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell on Monday.
     De Jesumaria will spend six months in federal prison and another six months of home confinement. O’Connell also ordered him to register as a sex offender.
     Prosecutors said De Jesumaria was on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in August 2014 when he asked a flight attendant if he could move to the last row of the plane to “sit next to his wife.”
     De Jesumaria took the middle seat, between a man in the window seat and the victim in the aisle seat. The victim slept through much of the flight but awoke to find De Jesumaria’s hand on her left thigh near her groin, according to evidence presented at trial.
     The priest then wrapped his arm around the victim and grabbed her breast tightly, the evidence showed. When he released his grip the victim went to the lavatory and used the call button to summon a flight attendant and report the incident.
     Prosecutors said the flight crew reseated De Jesumaria at the front of the plane between two men, and the captain radioed law enforcement to meet the plane on landing at LAX.
     FBI agents interviewed De Jesumaria, who admitted he enjoyed “cozy flights” with women.
     At trial, De Jesumaria gave numerous bizarre explanations for his conduct and blamed the victim. He testified that his touching was consensual because she did not reject him, and he interpreted her silence – because she was asleep – as “coyness,” prosecutors said.
     The victim testified at Monday’s sentencing hearing that she is reminded of the “ordeal” daily since she travels by airplane regularly for her job.
     After De Jesumaria’s indictment this past October, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino removed him and issued a statement calling his actions “sinful and unlawful.”
     De Jesumaria’s future in the priesthood will be determined by his order, the Congregation of the Resurrection, the diocese said.

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