A Delta passenger exposed himself to a woman sitting next to him on a flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas and started masturbating — then groped her just before landing, federal authorities alleged in a two-count criminal complaint.
Michael DeWayne Peterson now faces two federal charges of simple assault and indecent exposure.
According to the recent criminal complaint, the incident allegedly took place earlier this summer onboard Delta Airlines flight 949 on a June 1. That was when authorities say Peterson “engaged in masturbation in front of a female passenger, pulled his penis out of his pants, and grabbed the female passenger.”
The FBI says that Peterson had no association with the woman sitting next to him on the flight.
“A.C. reported that, during the flight, Peterson repeatedly stared at her,” the complaint states. “Multiple times, as Peterson was staring at A.C., he would put his hands down his pants and pull out his penis so that it was visible to A.C. She further reported that Peterson had his hands in his pants for the duration of the flight, making gestures that appeared as though he was masturbating.”
The woman says that Peterson typed a message on his cell phone and put it on her lap about 10 minutes before landing.
“The message said, ‘Can I take you out so we can have sex?’” the complaint states. “A.C. verbally responded, ‘No,’ and then Peterson typed on his phone ‘Yes.’ At that point, Peterson grabbed A.C.’s inner thigh. A.C. hit Peterson’s hand away, and verbally stated, ‘Do not touch me!’ Peterson laughed and looked out the window.”
Authorities say that Peterson exited the flight “very fast.”
According to the complaint, the woman tried to report the alleged incident to a flight attendant, who referred her to the gate agent because the plane already had landed.
“The gate agent called a supervisor, who dispatched Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) officers.
Delta and LVMPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A little more than a week after the flight, an FBI agent interviewed A.C. on June 9, 2022. The woman provided the agent with a video that she recorded during the flight, which authorities say showed Peterson appearing to masturbate.
Peterson was charged on Aug. 31, 2022, nearly three months later. His complaint was signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Elayna Youchah. His criminal docket does not indicate whether he has retained an attorney.
The simple assault charge has a maximum term of imprisonment of six months. The indecent exposure count, borrowed from the D.C. criminal code under special aircraft jurisdiction, carries a 90-day maximum penalty.
The relevant part of the latter statute states: “It is unlawful for a person, in public, to make an obscene or indecent exposure of his or her genitalia or anus, to engage in masturbation, or to engage in a sexual act as defined in § 22-3001(8).”
Petersen is being prosecuted in a Las Vegas courthouse of the U.S. District of Nevada by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angelica Marmorstein.