A federal judge sentenced a frequent business traveler from suburban Chicago to nine months in prison for groping a female passenger during a flight while she slept in a seat next to him.
The victim and her husband were returning to Chicago after celebrating their 34th anniversary in Las Vegas two years ago when Srinivasa Erramilli, now 45, sat between the couple and later began touching her, the woman testified at trial last year.
Prosecutors say the Aurora software business owner should serve as much as a year and nine months in prison for his conviction of felony abusive sexual contact. Time behind bars, they argue, will send a wider message that such behavior can't be tolerated.
Defense lawyers asked for probation, arguing imprisonment will doom his firm, which employs 13. Erramilli has already paid a price in humiliation resulting from media coverage, they said, and the humiliation extended to his wife and two young daughters.
"They have lost friends and have been mocked and castigated," one defense filing said. "The Internet Age makes that embarrassment relatively permanent, since a simple Google search of his name brings all of the stories to the fore."
The victim testified she chose a window seat on the June 14, 2011, Southwest Airlines flight so she could sleep, while her husband sat by an aisle for easy restroom access. Erramilli boarded last and was given the only seat left — between the couple.
The woman awoke a first time after feeling something brush her thigh and then a second time after feeling greater pressure on her leg; she awoke a third time when Erramilli grabbed her thigh underneath her shorts, she testified.
"Get your hands off of me!" other passengers said she yelled. She also started hitting Erramilli and called him "a pig."
At trial, the defense argued the contact with the woman's leg was inadvertent.
Jurors heard testimony that Erramilli was convicted in 2002 and given probation after grabbing a woman's breast on a Detroit-bound flight. In 2000, he received two years' probation for a similar incident.
That history argued against leniency, government attorneys said.