Man grabbed flight attendant, made sexual comments on flight from Charlotte, feds say

An American Eagle jet taxis to the terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

An American Eagle jet taxis to the terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.


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A 40-year-old man from Arkansas is accused of sexually harassing a male flight attendant on a trip from Charlotte last year.

Now he faces up to two decades in prison.

Leon Anderson pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of interfering with a flight attendant, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas said in a news release. Anderson is from Maumelle, a city just outside of Little Rock.

The incident occurred on a roughly two-hour flight from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to Little Rock on Feb. 11, 2020, prosecutors said.

The flight was operated by PSA Airlines, which flies under the moniker American Eagle and is a subsidiary of American Airlines. Defense attorneys appointed to represent Anderson and a spokesperson with American Airlines did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment Thursday.

According to the release, a flight attendant was walking through the aisles prior to takeoff when Anderson grabbed his leg.

“Startled, the flight attendant turned around, and the passenger — Anderson — apologized and said it was a mistake,” prosecutors said.

But a few minutes later, Anderson reportedly threw his arm around the flight attendant’s shoulder and tried to grab him by the waist while apologizing again. Prosecutors said the flight attendant told him he didn’t need to continue saying sorry.

The unwanted touching didn’t stop, according to the government.

“The flight attendant continued his duties, but Anderson made inappropriate, sexual comments to the flight attendant and ultimately grabbed the flight attendant two more times in a sexual manner,” prosecutors said.

The flight attendant ultimately told the captain, who called law enforcement.

A grand jury indicted Anderson in October on one count of abusive sexual contact on an aircraft, court filings show. He pleaded guilty to a superceding information filed by prosecutors charging him with interference with a flight attendant.

A federal judge hasn’t set Anderson’s sentencing date yet.

He faces up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and three years of supervised release, prosecutors said.

Hayley Fowler is a reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

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