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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lockport Man Arrested For Lewd Behavior On A Flight From Florida To Buffalo

CONTACT:      Barbara Burns
PHONE:         (716) 843-5817
FAX:            (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y.-Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging Gerald McErlean, 46, of Lockport, NY, with performing a lewd act aboard an aircraft in violation of Title 49 of the United States Code. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan P. Cantil, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, on March 8, 2017, the defendant exposed himself and masturbated on a Southwest Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Buffalo. McErlean was observed engaging in the act by two women, who sought to block his behavior from the view of a toddler who was also traveling with them. When one of the woman "called [him] out on what he was doing," the defendant stopped.

Another passenger, who also noticed the defendant’s behavior, called for a flight attendant who subsequently moved McErlean to the back of the airplane. When the flight arrived in Buffalo, having traveled the distance with the cabin lights on, the defendant was arrested by officers from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police.

The defendant made an initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder and was released on bail pending a detention hearing on March 17, 2017.

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Adam S. Cohen; the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police, under the direction of Chief George Gast; and the Amherst Police Department, under the direction of Chief John Askey.  

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Updated March 17, 2017