First, it was United Airlines dragging and injuring a paid passenger off an overbooked flight.
Then, it’s American Airlines’ male steward hitting a mom carrying two infants with a stroller.
Now it’s Delta Airlines.
A Michigan woman has filed a civil suit against Delta Airlines for its flight attendants doing nothing to stop a passenger, Christopher Finkley, 41, from masturbating and sexually assaulting her on a flight from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Detroit, Michigan.
Upon deplaning, Finkley was arrested.
Here’s the account of what happened on the Delta flight from the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan’s Sentencing Memorandum, Case No. 16-mj-30520, by Daniel L. Lemisch, Acting United States Attorney:
“On July 27, 2016, defendant Christopher Finkley boarded a Delta flight from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Detroit, Michigan, and sat in his assigned seat in first class. Within forty minutes of take-off, a flight attendant observed him masturbating with his penis exposed.
Before the plane landed, the defendant went to the back of the plane to use the bathroom because the first class bathroom was out of order. On his way back from the bathroom, he sat in an empty seat next to an adult woman (the ‘victim’ or ‘AV-1 5’). The victim was seated in the window seat, so the defendant sat in the aisle seat. Shortly after the defendant sat down, he placed his hand on the victim’s upper thigh and began to rub her bare skin. While he was doing this, the defendant told her that he ‘liked white women’ and asked ‘where’s your man?’ The victim told him to ‘please stop’ and stated ‘my kids are behind me.’ The defendant continued to touch the victim’s bare thigh and told her that he was massaging her leg.
Again, the victim asked the defendant to stop. He then put a part of his hand underneath AV-I ‘s shorts and continued to touch her. When the defendant realized the flight was landing sh01tly, he returned to his seat. After his return [to his assigned seat], he resumed rubbing his exposed penis, this time observed by a second flight attendant.
Upon landing, AV-I immediately texted her daughter and told her to stay in her seat because she was scared. The defendant was taken into custody and interviewed by FBI Special Agent Michael Thomas and Detective John Carmona.
During this interview, he admitted that he had two drinks before and during the flight. Initially, he stated that he did not intend to expose himself and that he was not masturbating—that the zipper of his shorts must have come down and he was attempting to zip it back up when the flight attendant walked by. The officers advised defendant of the statements that others made on the scene, and that he could be prosecuted for making false statements under 18 U.S.C. 1001. The defendant then admitted that he likes to sit with his hands in his pants and massage his penis, and called this ‘his happy place.’ He stated that on the flight, he thought he was covered with a blanket while doing this, but he guesses that he was not covered up well enough. He stated that he did not mean for the flight attendants to see his penis but that it is possible that they did. Defendant then admitted to touching AVu l on the outside of her knee and making a ‘caressing motion.’
Immediately after the incident, the victim was too distraught to make a statement. Officers reported that she was visibly upset and crying. The victim later explained that she was especially distraught because her fourteen-year-old daughter was supposed to sit in the seat that she occupied, but she had switched with her prior to the flight taking off. The victim feared that this could have happened to her daughter. She now suffers from anxiety when flying.”
In the Sentencing Memorandum, Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch notes that:
“This is a serious offense. The defendant touched a woman on her bare thigh, putting parts of his hand underneath her shorts, without that woman’s permission. The defendant continued to do so after the victim told him to stop. The victim feared for her safety and for the safety of her children. That this offense took place on an airplane only escalates its severity. The victim did not have the ability to get up and walk away with the defendant seated in the aisle seat blocking her path. She was effectively trapped.“
According to the Sentencing Memorandum, on November 2, 2016, Finkley pled guilty to simple assault in violation of 18 U.S.C, 113(a)(5) without a plea agreement. At the hearing, Finkley denied masturbating on the flight and denied exposing his penis. He only admitted to touching the woman’s leg, that his zipper had broken, that he does not wear underwear, and this is why his penis may have been exposed.
I can’t find a pic of Christopher Finkley in news accounts of this incident — in either WJBK Fox 2 or CBS Detroit or Mugshots.com.
So I did an online search for “Christopher Hinkley” and immediately found him on LinkedIn, where he identifies his occupation as “Auto Truck Transport” in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
That is consistent with his description in the Sentencing Memorandum:
“He completed high school and has held relatively steady employment as a commercial truck driver since 2007. (PSR 25-28). He is married with two children. (PSR 45). He denies any history of mental health or emotional health problems. (Id). However, he did admit to the FBI that his ‘happy place’ is to massage his penis with his hands and has, at least on this occasion, done so in public.”
The Sentencing Memorandum emphasizes:
“The defendant must be deterred. A custodial sentence of thirty days will reflect the seriousness of the defendant’s conduct, promote respect for the law, and provide a just punishment that adequately addresses the lasting effects the defendant’s behavior caused the victim. Members of the public deserve to be free from the fear that they could be assaulted on an airplane.”
On March 28, 2017, the court recommended that Finkley be sentenced to 30 days imprisonment, followed by 6 months of supervised release.
According to a report by WJBK Fox 2, however, Finkley was sentenced for assault and indecent exposure and given only a seven day jail sentence and one year probation.
So much for the court-recommended sentence of 30 days in order to “reflect the seriousness of the defendant’s conduct, promote respect for the law, and provide a just punishment that adequately addresses the lasting effects the defendant’s behavior caused the victim.”
Speaking to FOX 2, the victim’s attorney Jerry Acker said what the Delta flight attendants should have done, after they found out Finkley was masturbating and exposing himself in first class, was to monitor Finkley and not allow “that predator to run through the cabin” to sit next to and assault the victim.
Acker says he is negotiating with Delta to resolve this, and that if he can’t, a lawsuit will be filed.
Delta said the flight mentioned was operated by ExpressJet, a Delta connection partner. Delta and ExpressJet released a statement that they have no comment about the possible lawsuit.