The drunk and belligerent passenger received probation after pleading guilty to charges related to a May 2016 incident in which she groped and insulted a teenager on a flight from Las Vegas.
A 23-year-old woman will escape more serious consequences after a judge sentenced her to eight months of home detention and three years of probation following a guilty plea to charges related to her actions on an Alaska Airlines flight from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) to Portland International Airport (PDX) on May 8 of last year. A federal grand jury initially indicted Heidi McKinney on a count of “abusive sexual contact” after hearing how she groped her seat mate’s breasts and groin as well as licking the young passenger’s ear during the flight.
According to court documents obtained by The Oregonian, McKinney pled guilty to a single count of “to assault with intent to commit a felony” earlier this month. The judge rejected an in-place plea bargain agreement that did not include house arrest.
“She needs to be held accountable for her crimes first,” US District Judge Anna Brown said at sentencing, calling the previously rejected deal “out of line.”
The 19-year-old victim did not speak at the hearing on Tuesday. She instead wrote a letter to the court which was read by her grandmother.
“I personally don’t feel you know how much damage you have caused me,” she wrote in the letter to her abuser. “That day you messed with my head and took something from me that I will never get back. What you did was not OK in any shape or form.”
The court heard how McKinney attempted to bully the victim into drinking alcohol that she had smuggled onto the flight. She then sexually assaulted the young woman – at one point climbing on top of her announcing that she “wanted to have sex” with the teenager. Later, when the victim rejected McKinney’s drunken advances, the victim became subjected to relentless bullying, including having a drink tossed in her lap, being called “poor” and having several photographs taken of her without permission.
At a hearing in March, Assistant US Attorney Ravi Sinha described McKinney’s actions as both malicious and cruel. “Miss McKinney did so with the intent to humiliate and harass the victim,” he told the judge. “She both made contact with victim’s body, including her inner thigh, and made a series of profane and lewd statements to the victim.”
McKinney told the judge that she has struggled with alcoholism for years. Since the incident, McKinney says she has completed an inpatient alcohol abuse treatment program. According to court records, she has had two prior convictions for driving under the influence (DUI).
Judge Brown ordered that McKinney not drink as one of the conditions of her sentence. “Absolute abstention from alcohol is the requirement for you,” the judge cautioned her. ”You simply cannot drink.”