LOS ANGELES, CA – A Californian man has been handed a five-year prison sentence by a federal judge following his conviction for assaulting a 13-year-old girl on a Delta Air Lines flight. The incident occurred during a redeye flight from Los Angeles to Orlando, Florida on June 23, 2022. The man, identified as 52-year-old Brian Patrick Durning, was seated next to the minor who was two rows away from her family.
As per the evidence and testimonies presented during the trial, the assault took place after the cabin lights were dimmed. A co-passenger intervened when they noticed Durning’s hand between the girl’s legs. The sentencing memorandum further revealed that Durning began behaving strangely as the lights were dimmed, rubbing his leg against the girl and touching her hair repeatedly. He also touched her neck and hair with his hands.
The situation escalated when the minor tried to stop Durning from touching her. Prosecutors stated that Durning ran his hand down the girl’s chest and touched her breast. He also referred to the girl as “honey boo” and threatened to take her to Texas, telling her she would never see her family again. Prosecutors also mentioned that Durning performed actions that were too graphic to be published.
The minor experienced a panic attack following the incident and was found crying and unable to speak. She also suffered physical pain and found blood in her underwear. The trauma of the assault led to sleep disturbances and nightmares for the victim, which persisted throughout the trial.
The girl’s mother testified in court, revealing the profound impact of the incident on her daughter’s life. The girl became reclusive, avoiding social interactions and outdoor activities. Another woman on the flight testified that she observed the incident and switched seats with the girl. She also claimed that Durning attempted to grope her as well.
Durning’s attorney argued that alcohol was a contributing factor to his client’s actions on the flight. Durning was convicted on June 22 for assaulting a minor on an aircraft. United States District Judge Wendy W. Berger sentenced Durning to five years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, as per a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday.
The case was investigated by the FBI, Federal Air Marshals, and the Orlando Police Department. It was brought to court as part of Project Safe Childhood, a DOJ initiative launched in 2006 to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. In response to a request for comment, a Delta Air Lines spokesperson stated that the airline has zero tolerance for unlawful conduct.
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