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ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Siva K. Durbesula, 29, of India, who was convicted by a jury of abusive sexual contact aboard an airplane, was sentenced to two years in prison late yesterday. In addition to the prison term imposed, Chief U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger ordered Durbesula to serve 10 years of supervised release and to pay a $5,000 assessment.
Acting U.S. Attorney William T. Stetzer and M. Rhett DeHeart, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, are joined by Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI in Charlotte, in making today’s announcement.
According to filed court documents, witness testimony, and evidence presented at trial, on June 23, 2019, Durbesula was a passenger aboard a flight from Chicago O’Hare to Myrtle Beach, S.C. Over the course of the flight, Durbesula sexually assaulted a 22-year-old female who was seated next to him. As the victim testified at trial, Durbesula pulled her toward him and groped her repeatedly midflight. Court records show that after the flight crew moved Durbesula away from the victim, Durbesula asked to return to his previous seat so he could speak to the victim again.
During trial, prosecutors also presented the testimony of a second victim, who testified that on March 21, 2019 – approximately three months prior to the assault on the airplane – Durbesula pinned her into the corner on a New York City subway train and groped her. The victim was able to video record Durbesula’s exiting the train, which assisted the New York Police Department to identify Durbesula and charge him. Those charges were still pending when Durbesula sexually assaulted the victim on the airplane that resulted in federal charges.
The case was originally indicted in the District of South Carolina and was later transferred to the Western District of North Carolina. In announcing today’s sentence, Judge Reidinger handed Durbesula the statutory maximum prison term for the offense, noting that the defendant’s repeated sexual misconduct over a short period of time required the maximum statutory punishment to promote respect for the law.
Durbesula is currently in federal custody. He will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.
In making today’s announcement, Acting U.S. Attorneys Stetzer and DeHeart commended the FBI and the Horry County Police Department for their investigation of the case, and thanked Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for their invaluable assistance.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Don Gast, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina in Asheville, and Derek A. Shoemake, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina in Florence, prosecuted the case.