This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.
This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.
Creepy Priest Going To Jail For Groping A Sleeping Woman On A Plane
A Catholic priest who molested a woman on a flight from Philadelphia to LAX has been sentenced to go to jail. Prosecutors say the priest interpreted the woman he groped as "coy" even though she was actually asleep.Marcelo De Jesumaria, a 46-year-old Catholic priest originally from Lake Arrowhead, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell after being found guilty in May of abusive sexual contact, according to a release from the U.S. District Attorney's Office. His one-year sentence is to be split between six months in jail, then six months of house arrest. De Jesumaria will also have to register as a sex offender, and was let go from his position as clergy in November. The maximum sentence for De Jesumaria's conviction was two years.
The incident happened on August 17, 2014 on a US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. De Jesumaria was not seated next to the victim at first, but eventually asked a flight attendant if he could switch seats in order to sit next to his 'wife.' De Jesumaria moved to sit in a middle seat between a man, who was seated next to the window, and the victim, whom De Jesumaria had claimed was his wife.
The victim said she fell asleep during the flight, but woke up when De Jesumaria touched her high on her left leg, close to her crotch area. She said De Jesumaria then put his arm around her and grabbed her breast. She said he held her tightly for a while, but eventually loosened his grip and she got up. She went to the bathroom, then used a call button to get a flight attendant's attention and reported De Jesumaria's behavior.
Flight attendants then moved De Jesumaria to sit between two men instead, and the captain of the plane called for authorities to meet them when they landed at LAX. There, FBI agents spoke with De Jesumaria, who told them that he sometimes liked "cozy flights" with female passengers.
At the sentencing, the victim said that she experienced "fear, frustration and anxiety" because of De Jesumaria's actions, and that it haunts her on a regular basis as she often must travel for work.
Prosecutors painted a disturbing picture of De Jesumaria, saying that he told them what happened was consensual because the victim "did not reject his touch and he interpreted her silence, because she was asleep, as 'coyness.'"