A doctor in Mississippi has pleaded guilty to groping a sleeping woman’s breast during a Delta flight from New York to Memphis in September.
Dr. Rajesh Subramanya entered the guilty plea Thursday to a misdemeanour charge of simple assault and has now been ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and serve one year of probation, according to recently unsealed court documents.
Subramanya, who holds passports from the United Kingdom and India, will also be forced to leave the US, with docket entry notes indicating he’s set to return to the UK though a date for his deportation has not yet been specified.
The physician had been working at the Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi through a staffing agency but was removed after his arrest in November, a spokeswoman for the hospital group confirmed.
Thursday’s guilty plea brings about a rapid end to a case which first came to light less than three months ago, when a woman reported to airport police that she had been groped while sleeping on Delta Flight 3359 between LaGuardia and Memphis on September 29.
Dr. Rajesh Subramanya entered a guilty plea Thursday to a misdemeanour charge of simple assault and has now been ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and serve one year of probation, according to recently unsealed court documents
According to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Daryl C. Murton, the victim said she woke up as the flight was approaching Memphis for landing after feeling ‘as though a hand were pulled back from her breast’.
When the woman looked over to Subramanya, who was seated to her right, he appeared to be asleep.
Thinking she may have imagined the incident, the woman then closed her eyes and went back to sleep.
But just minutes later, she felt the physician’s hand go under the sweater she’d draped over herself as a blanket, inside her shirt and then under her bra, before he grabbed her breast.
‘[The victim] recoiled, and the male passenger used his hand to move up and down on two of her fingers in a sexual gesture. [The victim] pulled her hand away. The man asked her if he could touch her and she said no,’ the report states.
After she denied his advances, Subramanya struck up a conversation with the woman, during which he revealed he was working as a pediatrician in Oxford, Mississippi, and introduced himself as ‘Raj’.
When the woman revealed she was a doctor in residency, Subramanya suggested they exchange phone numbers for professional networking purposes. The woman obliged, believing that having his number would help police to quickly identify him later.
Once the plane landed, the woman left the airport and phoned her father, an attorney, who advised her to call the police. She did so, later issuing statements to the Memphis Police Department and the FBI.
According to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Daryl C. Murton, the victim said she woke up as the flight was approaching Memphis for landing after feeling ‘as though a hand were pulled back from her breast’
The FBI used the phone number to identify the passenger as Subramanya, and the woman then further verified his identity from a photo lineup.
‘FBI Memphis asked (the woman) to participate in a surreptitiously recorded conversation with Mr. Subramanya and the call was conducted on October 11, 2019,’ the affidavit said.
‘During the call, Mr. Subramanya was very apologetic for their interaction on the flight, but did not specify precisely what he was sorry for.’
On October 31, FBI agents arrived at Subramanya’s Oxford home to interview him, during which conversation he stated he touched the victim’s arm and asked her if he could touch her.
He told authorities the victim was leaning toward his seat as she slept and he took that to mean ‘she welcomed his touch’.
‘Mr. Subramanya stated that he then proceeded to touch [the woman’s] breast through her clothing.’
When quizzed by interviewers why he interpreted the woman’s lean as an indication of consent, Subramanya confessed that he was aware her ‘movement did not mean she consented to be touched by him.’
He had been working at the Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi through a staffing agency but was removed following his arrest, a spokeswoman for the hospital group confirmed
During the interview, Subramanya seemed to be ‘rattled’, constantly expressing concern about what may happen to him as a result of the incident – even later texting Special Agent Murton several times asking the same question.
Then, on November 18, agents received information from US Customs and Border Protection that the doctor had booked a flight from Memphis to India which was scheduled to leave the following day.
The FBI feared Subramanya may be attempting to flee the country to escape potential prosecution.
He was arrested on November 19 before he could board the flight and his passports were confiscated. He was later bailed on his own recognizance and ordered not to leave west Tennessee or north Mississippi.
Subramanya returned to court on Thursday with his attorney and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour assault charge.
As part of a plea agreement, Subramanya agreed to pay the $3000 fine on the ground his two passports would be returned to him that day.
The Commercial Appeal reported that Subramanya graduated from the Indian medical school Government Medical College Mysore in 1999.
He had only reportedly been working at Baptist Memorial a short time before the allegations came to light.
The hospital announced his arrival in a Facebook post on August 15 this year, identifying him as a pediatric hospitalist.