A 27-year-old Oregon woman has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 19-year-old female passenger on a flight from Las Vegas to Portland last year. She was sentenced July 10 to eight months of home detention and three years of probation, The Oregonian reports.
Heidi McKinney was arrested in May 2016 at Portland International Airport after her Alaska Airlines flight landed, according to court documents.
The state prosecutor later decided not to press charges against McKinney because of a lack of jurisdiction, The Oregonian reports. But in August 2016, a federal grand jury in Oregon indicted her on a charge of abusive sexual conduct. She pleaded guilty in March 2017 to assault with intent to commit a felony, which is itself a felony charge.
McKinney faced up to 10 years in prison. But an agreement between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and McKinney’s attorney called for her to receive three years of probation, according to court documents. The federal judge in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Anna J. Brown, did not have to abide by that agreement when making her sentencing decision.
McKinney did not speak during her court appearance Monday, but did write a letter of apology to the victim, according to The Oregonian. The victim was in court and sat in the front row, but was too emotional to read a statement, the newspaper reports.
“I personally don’t feel you know how much damage you have caused me. That day you messed with my head and took something from me that I will never get back,” the victim said in a statement, which was read by her grandmother, The Oregonian reports. “What you did was not OK in any shape or form,”
The victim wrote that she forgave McKinney, because she needed to move on with her own life, and hopes McKinney will get the help she needs.
“Absolute abstention from alcohol is the requirement for you,” Judge Brown told McKinney, according to The Oregonian. “You simply cannot drink.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. McKinney Groped the Woman’s Breasts, Licked Her Ear, Grabbed Her Genitals, Climbed on Top of Her & Told Her She Wanted to ‘F*ck,’ Feds Say
The female victim told police she was “touched on the breast and genitals without consent” by Heidi McKinney, according to the police report obtained by The Smoking Gun.
“Miss McKinney did so with the intent to humiliate and harass the victim,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Sinha said at U.S. District Court in Portland, the Associated Press reports. “(She) both made contact with victim’s body, including her inner thigh, and made a series of profane and lewd statements to the victim.”
Her boyfriend told jail officials McKinney doesn’t metabolize alcohol like most people and “this is what happens,” The Associated Press reports.
According to court documents filed by prosecutors prior to McKinney’s sentencing hearing, the incident occurred on May 8, 2016. Sinha wrote in the sentencing memo that the 19-year-old woman “boarded a flight in Las Vegas to return to her home in Portland. The woman proceeded to her assigned aisle seat and, as boarding continued, observed that the flight was almost completely full, with the only vacant seats seemingly being the middle and window seats in her row.”
While the woman likely thought she was going to have an aisle to herself, things took a quick turn for the worst, according to court documents.
“Eventually, after everyone else had boarded, the woman heard two adult women board the plane and observed as they proceeded to the woman’s row,” Sinha wrote. “The women were talking loudly and being ‘rowdy.’ As they approached, the woman attempted to stand so that he ‘rowdy women could take their seats in her row. As she did so, one of the ‘rowdy’ women, later identified as Ms. McKinney, inappropriately placed her hands on the woman’s chest, allowing her hands to linger there uncomfortably.”
Sinha wrote that McKinney took her seat and tried to start small talk with the victim, asking her name, where she was from and where she had stayed in Vegas. But the woman didn’t want to engage wit hMcKinney, “partly because Ms. McKinney and her companion (later identified as Ms. McKinney’s sister-in-law) appeared to have been drinking” and because she’d inappropriately touched her chest.
Sinha wrote that the woman also said McKinney’s “‘small talk’ consisted of “repeatedly insulting the victim’s perceived economic status and bragging of her own purported wealth.”
The victim did try to talk to McKinney politely, Sinha said. But, “it was not to be. Ms. McKinney harassed and questioned the victim about her age and where she lived, which the victim did not want to reveal to Ms. McKinney, and insisted, over the victim’s vocal objections, on taking multiple photographs of the victim, during which Ms. McKinney placed her arm around the victim.”
When the plane took off, “things got worse,” Sinha wrote. “Ms. McKinney continued to harass the victim, who at one point, put her hat over her face in an attempt to avoid Ms. McKinney. Undeterred, Ms. McKinney kept at the victim, attempting to pressure her into drinking liquor that Ms. McKinney had smuggled onto the plane.”
The prosecutor said the victim refused the drink and McKinney then held the small bottle of liquor in the victim’s face before throwing the bottle into her lap.
You can read the full sentencing memo below:
Things then escalated, Sinha wrote, with McKinney “subjecting the victim to a series of lewd and demeaning taunts and come-ons.”
Sinha said the victim was “significantly smaller” than Ms. Mckinney, and her “verbal abuse was supplemented by her physical aggression.”
According to the victim, McKinney licked her ear, grabbed her hand and tried to force her to touch McKinney’s breasts and put her hand on the victim’s crotch three times, while the victim struggled to stop her.
“The abuse culminated in Ms. McKinney climbing on top of the victim and telling (her) that she wanted to f*ck,” Sinha wrote.
2. She Taunted the Woman by Calling Her ‘Poor’ & Fellow Passengers Say McKinney Was Too Drunk to Walk Down the Plane Aisle
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Sinha wrote in court documents that when the victim declined to “f*ck” McKinney, and pushed her off of her, McKinney responded by cursing at her and calling her “poor.”
Sinha wrote, “Having endured Ms. McKinney’s verbal and physical abuse, the victim overcame her initial shock and managed to compose herself. She contacted a member of the flight crew who, in spite of the flight being full, moved her away from Ms. McKinney for the remainder of the trip.”
A fellow passenger wrote on Twitter that the incident involving McKinney caused passengers to be stuck on the plane after it landed.
“So that’s why we were stuck in the sweltering plane. She was DRUNK when Portland PD escorted her off the plane,” user @3hubcaps wrote, while linking to a story about McKinney’s arrest.
She said they sat at the gate and an officer boarded. The flight’s air conditioning wasn’t working, the Twitter user wrote.
As McKinney was led off the plane, the woman tweeted, “Ooooh. She’s DRUNK. Can’t walk down the plane aisle drunk. Holy s**t.”
According to court documents, the victim “remains deeply traumatized by Ms. McKinney’s unprovoked aggression and abuse,” and “will suffer the effects of Ms. McKinney’s actions for the rest of her life.”
3. She Was Found Passed Out Drunk at a Bar After She Pleaded Guilty, but Has Since Completed Rehab,
McKinney was initially booked into the Multnomah County Jail on a third-degree sexual abuse charge, which is a misdemeanor. She was released on $2,500 bail before the prosecutor decided not to pursue the charge against her, according to online jail records.
After an investigation by federal authorities, which typically have oversight over incidents that occur on airplanes, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon’s obtained an indictment from a grand jury charging her with abusive sexual conduct.
McKinney was arrested on August 3, 2016, and released that same day on supervised release. The judge set several conditions for her release, including that she not possess or consume alcohol or drugs, submit to random drug and alcohol testing and not travel by air without prior approval.
Prosecutors said that on April 9, 2017, just weeks after she pleaded guilty, on March 24, McKinney “was found unconscious and intoxicated at a local bar.”
According to court documents, McKinney self-admitted herself to an impatient treatment program, which she successfully completed on June 14.
“Since her departure from the inpatient treatment facility, Ms. Mckinney has participated in outpatient treatment three times each week,” according to court documents.
Her sentencing was originally scheduled for June 19, but was pushed back to July 10.
4. She Has Previously Been Convicted of Driving Under the Influence Twice & Purchasing Alcohol as a Minor
McKinney has previous arrests for alcohol-related incidents, according to online court records.
She was arrested on December 21, 2007, and charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants and reckless driving. She was later convicted of DUI. She was also convicted of DUI in 2015.
McKinney was also convicted in 2008 of being a minor in possession of alcohol.
Her husband owns a marijuana business, The Oregonian reports. As part of her sentencing, McKinney was ordered to not have any part in that company’s operations, including bookkeeping or contact with money from the business, during her probation. She can also not keep guns in her home.
5. Prosecutors Say McKinney ‘Is Certainly Deserving’ of Prison, but Her History of Alcohol & Substance Abuse Are Mitigating Factors
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Sinha wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Heidi McKinney’s “criminal behavior is certainly deserving of incarceration.”
Sinha said prosecutors “likely would have sought a significant jail sentence under most circumstances,” but there is information, which has not been publicly revealed, that “suggests that a lesser sentence is appropriate.”
McKinney’s defense attorney, Lisa Ludwig, said in court during her sentencing that McKinney has been struggling with alcohol abuse since she was a teenager and she herself was sexually abused, The Oregonian reports.
According to court documents, prosecutors also believe McKinney’s “history of alcohol and substance abuse should serve as mitigating factors” in her sentencing.
Sinha wrote, “Because all of Ms. McKinney’s criminal activity appears to be alcohol related, the United States believes that, if Ms. McKinney is made to comply with the conditions of her probation, including drug and alcohol counseling and monitoring, the jointly recommended sentence will … provide just punishment for Ms. McKinneu’s current offense, adequately deter criminal conduct and protect the public from further crimes by Ms. McKinney.”
Her plea deal also calls for her attend mandatory drug and alcohol counseling and monitoring and pay $3,000 in restitution, along with 36 months of probation.
“Though the seriousness of Ms. McKinney’s crime and the profound trauma that her victim has suffered should not, in any way, be minimized, the United States believes that the requested sentence is sufficient but not greater than necessary,” Sinha wrote.
McKinney planned to make the restitution in full on Monday, according to The Oregonian.
Judge Anna Brown said sentencing guidelines called for home detention, and it would be “quite out of line” to not add that to her punishment.
“She needs to be held accountable for her crimes first,” the judge said, according to the newspaper.
McKinney will be able to leave her home to go to school, church or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and to look for employment. Her attorney told the judge that McKinney is trying to develop “appropriate sober relationships with same-age peers.”
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