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Catholic priest gets prison term for groping sleeping woman on plane

A Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to six months in federal prison and must register as a sex offender for groping a woman on a cross-country flight while she was sleeping, authorities said Monday.

Marcelo De Jesumaria, 46, of Valyermo, was also sentenced to six months’ home confinement in connection with the incident aboard a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles on Aug. 17, 2014.

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FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of this post misspelled De Jesumaria’s name as Del Jesumaria.

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According to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office, De Jesumaria told a flight attendant he wanted to sit next to his “wife,”  indicating a woman in the back row of the plane. The woman was in the aisle seat and De Jesumaria took the middle. Another man was sitting in the window seat, officials said.

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The woman fell asleep during the long flight but woke up to find De Jesumaria’s hand high on her left thigh. He then wrapped his arm around her and grabbed her breast, prosecutors said. When he relaxed his grip, the woman got up and told a flight attendant what had happened.

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The flight crew moved De Jesumaria to the front of the plane and the pilot alerted law enforcement, who took Jesumaria into custody once the flight landed. He told FBI agents that he liked “cozy flights” with women, prosecutors said.

De Jesumaria reportedly testified that he thought what he did was consensual because she didn’t stop him and he considered her silence – she was actually asleep – as “coyness,” federal officials said.

The woman told the judge at his sentencing Monday that she feels “fear, frustration and anxiety” since the attack. The effects are particularly acute because she frequently flies as part of her job, prosecutors said.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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