Donald Edward Robinson Accused of Masturbating on Flight
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Woman, 21, Tells Fellow Plane Passenger ‘Hi, This Man Assaulted Me and Touched My Leg and Is Masturbating’: Feds

 
United Airlines in Newark

United Airlines planes sit on the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport on November 30, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey.

A 21-year-old woman typed a message on her phone and showed it to a fellow passenger because the 76-year-old man seated next to her on a flight to Boston was masturbating and touched her thigh without her consent, federal prosecutors allege.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said Sunday that the incident occurred Friday, April 8, on a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Boston Logan International Airport. The suspect, identified as 76-year-old Donald Edward Robinson of Bonita Springs, Florida, faces a count of lewd, indecent and obscene acts while in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.

Charging documents say that offense is 49 U.S.C. § 46506(2).

The affidavit prepared by FBI Special Agent Jason Costello said that the alleged incident occurred a matter of minutes after the plane took off from Newark.

The Victim stated that within a few minutes of the flight departing Newark she noticed that the man seated next to her—later identified as ROBINSON—kept moving around. The Victim tried to sleep by putting her head on her tray table but felt ROBINSON continue moving around. The Victim became very uncomfortable and did not want to turn and look directly at ROBINSON to see what he was doing. Instead, the Victim used her iPhone to take a short video of ROBINSON to see what he was doing. The Victim then watched the video and saw that ROBINSON was manipulating his penis through his pants.

The FBI special agent said that he later viewed the video, which was forwarded by Massachusetts State Police who initially responded and interviewed the woman once the plane landed in Boston.

“The video is shot from the perspective of the lap of the middle seat passenger facing the window to the left of the middle seat,” the affidavit said. “The man’s right hand appears stationary and resting on his right thigh. With his left hand, the man is observed fondling his crotch area in a manner consistent with holding or manipulating his penis.”

Documents alleged that Robinson then exposed his penis before touching the woman’s thigh without her consent.

“The Victim stated that she was in shock and did not know what to do. She looked away and covered her head and body with her jacket. The victim did her best to ignore ROBINSON and what he was doing but continued to feel ROBINSON move around,” the affidavit continued. “About five minutes before landing, ROBINSON placed his hand on the top of the Victim’s thigh. The Victim asked ROBINSON why he was touching her. ROBINSON withdrew his hand and looked out the window.”

That’s allegedly when the victim typed a message along the lines of “Hi, This man assaulted me and touched my leg and is masturbating” and showed the iPhone to Witness 1:

The Victim then got the attention of the adult female passenger seated to her right in the aisle seat (Witness 1). The Victim typed out a message on her iPhone and displayed it to Witness 1; it stated words to the effect of, “Hi, This man assaulted me and touched my leg and is masturbating.” Witness 1 whispered and asked the Victim if she was going to tell the flight crew, and the Victim whispered yes. During the deplaning process, the Victim notified a flight attendant (Witness 2) of what happened. The Victim then deplaned and spoke with a gate agent (Witness 3) about what happened.

United Airlines responded to Law&Crime’s inquiry about the incident by noting that the flight crew alerted law enforcement to the incident (documents identify the reporting flight attendant as Witness 2).

“Upon being made aware of the situation, our crew and Boston Airport team contacted local authorities,” a statement from United said. “We will cooperate with law enforcement on any investigation.”

Special Agent Costello said in the affidavit that he interviewed the woman the day after the incident. According to Costello, the woman said she first realized Robinson was exposing himself when she heard him unzip his pants:

The Victim stated that, a few minutes after taking the video of ROBINSON, the victim heard the noise of a zipper, which caused her to glance over and see that ROBINSON had exposed his penis. ROBINSON had pulled his belt up and out of the way and removed his penis from his pants through the open zipper. The Victim described being in shock, being afraid that ROBINSON would touch her, and not knowing what to do. She looked away, covered her head and body with her jacket, turned her music up, and did her best to ignore ROBINSON.

The DOJ said that after the plane landed Robinson deplaned and headed for the baggage carousel, where he “quickly removed two suitcases” and “joined a group of two women and two men who were already there.”

The DOJ press release said that the suspect was arrested Sunday and faces up to 90 days behind bars if convicted.

Read the charging document below:

[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the editor-in-chief of Law&Crime.