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Man accused of sex assault of female airline passenger that led to emergency landing

The woman was sitting next to her daughter when James Clayton Cholewinski-Boyd at first touched the mother's arm and then groped her.

A man who allegedly groped a female airline passenger, leading to an emergency landing, is facing federal charges for criminal sexual misconduct.

James Clayton Cholewinski-Boyd, 32, who is listed in some court records as Cholewinski-Boy, was charged in connection to an incident on a flight earlier this week from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Salt Lake City, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma on Friday.

On the American Airlines flight on Tuesday, Cholewinski-Boyd sat next to a woman and her daughter, according to a federal complaint. Shortly after takeoff, he began touching the woman’s arm. The woman repeatedly pushed his hands away from her. Cholewinski-Boyd "then forcibly grabbed her by the crotch," the complaint said.

The 32-year-old man then put his hands up and said “sorry.”

The complaint said the woman told the flight's crew about what happened. The crew then relocated her and her daughter to another part of the plane.

The pilot decided to divert the flight to Tulsa International Airport so that Cholewinski-Boyd could be removed from the plane, the complaint states.

Cholewinski-Boyd was arrested for public intoxication upon arrival, according to authorities.

Image: James Clayton Cholewinski-Boyd
James Clayton Cholewinski-Boyd.

At least one passenger took photos of Tulsa police escorting him off the flight.

American Airlines told NBC News in a statement, “We want to thank our crew, who once they became aware of this behavior, immediately separated the mother and her daughter on the flight. They subsequently requested law enforcement and diverted the aircraft to Tulsa. The quick actions of our crew ensured the safety and well-being of our customers on the flight."

After the stop in Tulsa, the flight continued to Salt Lake City, according to the airline.

Reports of sexual assaults during flights have increased, the FBI said in a report last year. Sixty-three such assaults were reported in 2017, up from 38 in 2014.

“We are seeing more reports of in-flight sexual assault than ever before,” FBI Special Agent David Gates said in a statement released with the report, adding that it’s "safe to say that many incidents occur that are not reported."