Vijaykumar Krishnappa, a physician, was flying from Seattle on July 23 when he allegedly assaulted a 16-year-old girl sitting next to him.
Krishnappa appeared before a federal magistrate in Newark on Wednesday.
Krishnappa intentionally assaulted a girl who was unknown to him and seated next to him on the flight. Krishnappa admitted that while the victim was asleep, he intentionally touched her near her groin over her leggings without her consent, Acting US Attorney William E Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
Under terms of a plea agreement, the Indian national will be sentenced to between 30 and 90 days in prison in January.
Placed hand on her thigh
The minor girl, who was travelling, was asleep on the flight, when a stranger's hand on her thigh awakened her.
Krishnappa, sitting next to her quickly removed his hand, according to a federal court complaint, and the teenager went back to sleep. Then, she woke up again - and this time, the man was groping her, the complaint said.
She reported the incident to the airline crew and was allowed to move seats.
FBI called to probe
Once the flight from Seattle landed at Newark Liberty International Airport, the girl, from Washington state, called her parents. While she did, the accused left the airport, said Johnny McCray, an attorney for the girl's family.
The girl's family filed a complaint against United Airlines for neglecting to detain Krishnappa after the alleged assault, the report said.
The FBI was called to handle the investigation. It used the flight manifest to track down Krishnappa. The girl identified him from a photo array.
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