A Minneapolis man has been sentenced to more than a year in prison for molesting a teenage boy sitting next to him on a flight with his family back to the Twin Cities.
Neeraj Chopra, 41, received a 15-month prison term Thursday from U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel in Minneapolis, having been convicted by a jury of abusive sexual contact during the Jet Blue flight in on April 8, 2019, from Boston to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Chopra's defense argued in a filing about a week before sentencing that he should be spared prison time and be put on probation instead.
"Mr. Chopra has consistently maintained that his touching of [the teen] was unintentional," the defense filing read. "What has also remained consistent is Mr. Chopra's repeated apologies and expressions of remorse."
In addition, the filing continued, Chopra has no other history of sexual misconduct and is at low risk of reoffending.
The defense added that Chopra has already suffered many consequences for the encounter, including a bout of depression, eviction from his home, financial setbacks and "the shame associated with publicity in the press regarding his conviction."
During the flight, Chopra retrieved a blanket from his backpack and draped it over his lap, with a portion of it also covering the teen's right leg. Chopra put his hand under the blanket and began touching the teen between the legs, according to prosecutors.
Chopra ignored the teen's repeated requests to stop, and at one point, the boy got the attention of his brother seated in front of him and told him what happened, the indictment read.
The FBI interviewed Chopra after the plane landed. He admitted that he "touched [the teen] inappropriately" during the flight, one court document filed by the prosecution read. He also admitted that the touching happened more than once, though he claimed it was accidental, the document said.
When asked specifically whether his hand ever touched the teenager's genitals, Chopra stated, "I don't remember," the document said.