Due to the lapse in appropriations, Department of Justice websites will not be regularly updated. The Department’s essential law enforcement and national security functions will continue. Please refer to the Department of Justice’s contingency plan for more information.

You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Man Admits Assaulting Sleeping Woman On Flight From Los Angeles To Newark

NEWARK, N.J. - An airline passenger today admitted assaulting a female passenger who did not know him aboard a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport on July 30, 2016, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.


Veerabhadrarao Kunam, 58, of Visakhapatnam, India, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson in Newark federal court to an information charging him with assault in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.


According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Kunam was seated next to a woman who occupied a middle seat on a Virgin America redeye flight from Los Angeles to Newark on July 29 and 30, 2016. While the plane was in the air, the woman fell asleep. Kunam admitted that while the victim was asleep, he touched her vagina and buttocks without her consent.


Kunam was arrested on July 30, 2016 – the day his flight arrived in Newark – and was taken into federal custody by the FBI.


The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over all sexual abuse cases that occur on aircraft in flight in the United States.


Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Kunam will be sentenced to between 30 and 60 days in prison and up to 90 days in an inpatient alcohol treatment center. Sentencing is scheduled for March 22, 2017.


U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher, and the Port Authority Police Department, under the direction of Superintendent Michael A. Fedorko, with the investigation.


The government is represented by Francisco J. Navarro of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.


Defense counsel: Alexander Spiro, New York, New York

Press Release Number: 
Updated February 16, 2017