Isle sailor accused of in-flight sex abuse
The alleged victim was a teen seated next to the man on a mainland flight
PHOENIX » A 40-year-old sailor remains in custody in Arizona after his indictment by a federal grand jury on charges that he molested a teenage girl on a flight from Hawaii to Phoenix.
Shawn Michael Cole of Honolulu was indicted on two counts, sexual abuse of a minor and abusive sexual contact, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Friday.
Cole, a U.S. Navy sailor stationed at Pearl Harbor, is accused of molesting the 13-year-old girl on Jan. 17.
Cole was on board the Hawaiian Airlines flight and seated next to the girl.
Officials said Cole struck up a conversation with the girl and they watched a movie together on his laptop.
Cole reached over and began to molest the girl after she had appeared to have fallen asleep, according to authorities.
A flight attendant spotted the two and immediately moved the girl, who later told authorities that she pretended to be asleep because she was afraid.
The girl was originally seated next to a parent, but one of them moved a few rows away during the flight.
Cole pleaded not guilty during a court appearance Friday in Phoenix and was ordered to remain in custody. He is set for trial on April 8.
If convicted of abusive sexual contact, prosecutors said, Cole faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
A conviction for sexual abuse of a minor carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.