DETROIT — A 19-year-old female passenger aboard a Delta Air Lines flight fell asleep mid-flight, only to wake up and discover the man seated next to her had his hands down her underpants and was fondling her, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in federal court.
The alleged incident happened more than two years ago, aboard a flight that left Detroit for Amsterdam.
But it wasn't until Wednesday that criminal charges were filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit against the 32-year-old man, Janarol Dickens, who is charged with engaging in abusive sexual contact. He is an American citizen, but not from Michigan.
Authorities say American courts have jurisdiction over the crime because it was committed on an aircraft whose last departure was in the U.S.
Here's how the man ultimately wound up in court, and why it took so long.
According to an FBI agent's affidavit, on June 10, 2012, a 19-year-old Norwegian woman boarded a Delta flight in Detroit, headed to Amsterdam. Sometime during the flight, Dickens, who was sitting next to the woman, engaged in a conversation with her and asked her if she wanted to watch a movie with him.
The woman said no and eventually fell asleep.
When she awoke, "Dickens' hand was in her pants, underneath her underwear," the affidavit stated.
The woman got out of her seat, gathered her belongings and approached the flight crew. She explained to a flight attendant what had happened and started to cry. She was trembling, according to the affidavit.
The woman got a new seat for the duration of the flight.
After landing in Amsterdam, Dickens was interviewed by the Dutch Royal Military Police. He denied any sexual contact between him and the woman.
The complaint does not say what happened to Dickens after that. It mentions no further action taken by Dutch police.
It wasn't until nearly two years later, when Dickens returned to the U.S. on a flight that landed in Miami, that the alleged incident came back to haunt him.
Upon arrival in Miami, records show, Dickens was interviewed by an FBI agent. Initially, he denied ever being detained or interviewed by law enforcement for any crime, but when asked about the 2012 flight, he admitted to being detained by Dutch police.
Dickens said he remembered the flight, but denied any contact with a woman, records show.
He eventually confessed, records show, admitting he put his hand inside the woman's pants for about 10 seconds, but outside her underwear. He also admitted that the woman never gave him permission to do that, records show.
That, the FBI agent concluded in his affidavit, amounts to a crime: engaging in sexual contact with another person without their permission.
Dickens' whereabouts are not immediately known. Court documents do not yet list any attorney of record for him.