CHICAGO — A judge sentenced a business traveler from suburban Chicago to nine months in prison Wednesday for groping a passenger in flight while she slept in a seat next to him. The victim later said she wished the punishment could have been harsher.
The woman and her husband were returning to Chicago after celebrating their 34th anniversary in Las Vegas two years ago when Srinivasa Erramilli, now 46, sat between the couple and later began touching her, the woman testified at trial last year.
As she imposed the Aurora man’s sentence, which included banning him from commercial air travel for a year after his release, U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow praised the victim for pressing charges.
The victim read a brief statement in court, saying she still feels traumatized memories of the incident. Later, she told reporters she wished a harsher sentence had been available. Guidelines called for a maximum sentence of 16 months.
“I would have chopped off his hands,” she said.
Erramilli, a software company owner, showed little emotion. He declined to make a statement before sentencing.
The victim testified she awoke when Erramilli touched her thigh a third and final time. “Get your hands off of me!” other passengers heard her yell. She also started hitting Erramilli and called him “a pig.”
The defense argued at trial the contact was inadvertent and asked for probation, saying imprisonment would doom his firm and that humiliation from media coverage is its own punishment.
But Lefkow noted Erramilli was convicted in 2002 and given probation after grabbing a woman’s breast on a Detroit-bound flight. In 2000, he received two years’ probation for a similar incident.