Delta Air Lines Passenger Accused of Groping a Girl, Then Blaming the Ambien

·4 min read
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

A California man sexually assaulted a young girl while her mother sat nearby during an overnight flight from Los Angeles to Orlando, then groped a woman who came to the child’s aid, prosecutors say—but the 51-year-old suspect claims the Ambien made him do it.

Brian Patrick Durning was arrested Friday by federal agents who met Delta Air Lines flight 2954 at Orlando International Airport after it landed at 7:32 a.m., according to a criminal complaint first obtained by The Daily Beast. He has since been banned from Delta, a company spokesperson said in an email.

Durning, who lives in the L.A. suburb of Altadena, was in an aisle seat directly next to the alleged victim, who is described in court filings as older than 12 but younger than 16. The girl’s mother, who, like her, is not identified in the complaint, was seated elsewhere due to “reservation issues,” it states.

After the flight took off, Durning ordered an alcoholic beverage, according to the complaint. His accuser, who is referred to as “MV” in court filings, for “Minor Victim,” was in a middle seat, to Durning’s right.

“After consuming the drink, Durning began to cough and sneeze on MV,” the complaint continues. “At some point thereafter, Durning began to touch MV’s hair and neck. He also tried to put his arm around MV. When he did so, MV tried to lean away from Durning.”

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Durning, who works in the fitness industry, according to public records, then reached over with his right hand to “touch [MV’s] inner left thigh, moving her thigh toward him, as he called her ‘honey-boo,’” the complaint says. “He then started to move his hand up her inner left thigh toward her groin area.” Durning then allegedly penetrated MV “over her clothing,” according to the filing.

A woman sitting on the other side of MV was asleep during the alleged assault and did not witness it directly, she later told investigators. However, when she woke up and glanced over to her left, “S.J.,” as she is referred to in the complaint, “saw Durning quickly move his right hand away from inside MV’s thigh.”

“S.J. asked MV, ‘Did he touch you?’ and MV responded affirmatively,” the complaint states, noting that MV was “shaking and crying at that time.”

S.J. then switched seats with MV, putting herself between the girl and Durning. She notified a flight attendant about what was happening, and called for MV’s mom, who was two rows forward.

“S.J. told Durning not to talk to MV ‘because you’re scaring her,’” the complaint says. “At that time, Durning attempted to touch S.J.’s breast.”

When MV’s mother stood up and turned back to see what was going on, she said she saw her daughter mouth the words, “He touched me,” according to the complaint. As she walked back to confront Durning, she noticed that his pants were unzipped, it alleges.

“Shortly thereafter, a flight attendant reassigned seats to remove Durning from MV’s presence,” the complaint explains.

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Upon arrival, a federal air marshal at the Orlando airport interviewed Durning, who said he had had “one or two beers” before boarding the plane.

“Durning stated that during the flight, he took an Ambien pill and had one glass of white wine,” the complaint concludes. “Durning stated that he fell asleep. He stated that the next thing he remembered was someone waking him up and asking him to switch seats.”

So far this year, the FAA has received some 1,542 reports of unruly passengers, or about 1.7 incidents for every 10,000 flights, according to the agency’s most recent data. Of those, 80 cases have been referred to the FBI for criminal review. In April, as first reported by The Daily Beast, Southwest passenger Antonio Sherrodd McGarity was accused of masturbating a whopping four times during a short flight from Seattle to Phoenix. The airline subsequently banned him for life.

Durning is charged with committing a crime aboard an aircraft in flight, and abusive sexual contact involving young children. He was released pending trial by a judge on Friday, and surrendered his passport. Durning must undergo alcohol testing and treatment, be home between 9 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., and have no contact with minors unless a “responsible adult” is also present, according to the court’s conditions of release.

“Delta continues to cooperate with law enforcement in this matter,” Delta spokesperson Morgan Durrant told The Daily Beast in an email. “We have zero tolerance for this type of alleged behavior on our flights and at our airports and the charged individual is no longer welcome to fly Delta.”

Durning’s court-appointed lawyer, Nicole Mouakar, did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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