Two Men Charged in Separate Incidents of Sexual Assault Aboard Aircraft Destined for Sea-Tac Airport.
Arrests made as FBI Highlights Campaign to Educate Public about Need to Report Sexual Assault Aboard Aircraft
Two men, residents of Alaska and Southern California respectively, were arrested in the last 24 hours on the charge of abusive sexual contact aboard an aircraft, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. The assaults occurred on aircraft bound for Seattle-Tacoma International airport and were investigated by the FBI and Port of Seattle Police. BABAK REZAPOUR. 41, of Van Nuys, California will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles today. NICHOLAS MATTHEW STEVENS, 37, of Anchorage, Alaska will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Anchorage tomorrow. Both men will appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle at a later date.
“Reports of sexual assaults on aircraft are increasing, and we want the public to know these assaults are federal crimes and will be investigated and prosecuted consistent with the law,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “We urge the flying public to report assaults to airline personnel and law enforcement and assist victims who need help. The skies will be safer for all of us.”
According to records filed in the case, REZAPOUR is accused of sexually assaulting another passenger while she slept on a Norwegian Air flight from London to Seattle on January 10, 2018. The victim had taken a prescribed anti-anxiety medication and drank a glass of wine. The victim then accepted a second glass of wine purchased for her by REZAPOUR. After drinking the second glass, the victim became unusually sleepy. She awoke to find REZAPOUR sexually assaulting her. REZAPOUR used his jacket to shield the activity from other passengers. The victim fled to the back of the plane and reported the assault to flight attendants.
In the second incident, STEVENS assaulted a victim on an Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to Seattle. STEVENS was originally in an aisle seat with a vacant seat between him and the victim. STEVENS moved into the middle seat and began harassing the victim with personal questions and attempting to hold her hand, and rest his head on her shoulder. At various times, while pretending to be asleep, he grabbed her thigh and her breast. Another passenger assisted the victim with getting away from STEVENS when the flight arrived in Seattle. She and another passenger encouraged the victim to report the assault to law enforcement. The victim contacted an Alaska employee who immediately contacted Port of Seattle Police.
“These arrests demonstrate the consequences for those who commit the federal crime of sexual assault aboard an aircraft,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay S. Tabb, Jr., of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office. “The FBI investigates reports of these incidents and urges victims to contact us so that we may hold accountable the individuals responsible.”
“The Port of Seattle police department is here to ensure that Sea-Tac Airport is a safe and welcoming place,” said Mike Villa, Deputy Chief, Port of Seattle Police Department. “Sexual assault on a flight is a federal crime and we work with federal prosecutors to bring perpetrators to justice. If you feel that you are the victim of a crime, let the flight crew know or call 911 the moment you land anywhere in the country. If you land at our airport, a Port of Seattle Police Officer will be there to help you the moment you get off the plane.”
The charges contained in the complaints 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.
Abusive Sexual Contact on an Aircraft is punishable by up to two years in prison.
These cases highlight law enforcement’s concern about the increasing reports of sexual assault on aircraft. In an awareness campaign the FBI is urging passengers to be vigilant. Among some of the suggestions:
- Offenders will often test their victims, sometimes pretending to brush against them to see how they react or if they wake up. If such behavior occurs, reprimand the person immediately, and consider asking to be moved to another seat.
- If your seatmate is a stranger, no matter how polite he or she may seem, keep the armrest between you down.
- If you are arranging for a child to fly unaccompanied, try to reserve an aisle seat so flight attendants can keep a closer watch on them.
- If an incident happens, report it immediately to the flight crew and ask that they record the attacker’s identity and report the incident. The flight crew can also put the offender on notice, which can prevent further problems.
The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) connects victims with services:
- In Greater Seattle: 888.99.VOICE (888-998-6423)
If you have experienced sexual assault and need support, or if you would like more information about sexual violence, call King County Sexual Assault Resource Center’s 24-hour Resource Line at 888.99.VOICE (888-998-6423 or visit www.kcsarc.org<http://www.kcsarc.org/>/gethelp<http://www.kcsarc.org/gethelp>.
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (4673)
When you call 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll be routed to a local RAINN affiliate organization based on the first six digits of your phone number. Visit https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline for more information.
These cases were investigated by the FBI, Port of Seattle Police and the Seattle Police Department as part of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Katheryn Kim Frierson and Marie Dalton.