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Press Release

Alaska Military Servicemember indicted for allegedly molesting teens on flights through Seattle

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Two different teens report unwelcome touching while seated next to servicemember on flights; one instance witnessed by third teen

Seattle – A 41-year-old Chief Warrant Officer in the Army, currently stationed in Alaska, was indicted last week for two counts of abusive sexual contact while on board an aircraft, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. James Benecke was taken into custody at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson outside of Anchorage, Alaska and will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Alaska today at 2:00 PM (Alaska Time – 3:00 Pacific Time). He will be scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle later this month.

According to the indictment, on April 12, 2023, on an Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to Seattle, Benecke allegedly intentionally touched the buttocks of a 16-year-old teen who was seated next to him. The indictment charges that the contact was intentional for his sexual arousal.

Two months later, on June 12, 2023, on an Alaska Airlines flight from Dallas to Seattle, Benecke allegedly touched the buttocks and inner thigh of the 18-year-old woman who was seated next to him. In this instance, the contact was reported to the flight crew by the teen and her boyfriend and Benecke was moved to a seat at the rear of the plane. He was interviewed by law enforcement upon arrival in Seattle.

Due to the heavy travel schedule of the defendant, the investigation is ongoing and law enforcement is interested in speaking with anyone who may have been seated near to Benecke on an aircraft. Those with information should call: 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324)

Abusive Sexual Contact is punishable by up to two years in prison.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the FBI.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jocelyn Cooney.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated July 12, 2023

Violent Crime