About 90 minutes into the 12-hour flight, Rabbi Gavriel Bidany allegedly reached over to the sleeping woman seated next to him and “placed his hand under her blanket, on her groin, and was groping her genital area.” When the victim, identified only as “Jane Doe” in the complaint, “jumped back,” Bidany “quickly removed his hand from her groin.”
FBI Busts Rabbi For In-Flight Groping
Feds: Unorthodox behavior came on flight from Tel Aviv to New York
The Smoking Gun
APRIL 14--An Israeli rabbi flying to New York from Tel Aviv allegedly twice fondled a female passenger as she slept, and when the woman angrily confronted him, he claimed, “It’s a mistake, I’m asleep,” according to federal court records.
Rabbi Gavriel Bidany, 47, was named earlier this month in a criminal information charging him with misdemeanor assault. A complaint sworn by FBI Agent Janet Ambrisco provides a detailed account of the March 27 incident on Delta Airlines Flight 269.
About 90 minutes into the 12-hour flight, Bidany allegedly reached over to the sleeping woman seated next to him and “placed his hand under her blanket, on her groin, and was groping her genital area.” When the victim, identified only as “Jane Doe” in the complaint, “jumped back,” Bidany “quickly removed his hand from her groin.”
The woman told the FBI that she then “pulled her blanket back over her head and body.” But minutes later, Bidany allegedly again “reached under the passenger’s blanket, this time groping the passenger’s breasts.”
“What are you doing, stop touching me,” she told Bidany. He replied, “It’s a mistake, I’m asleep,” according to Ambrisco. The female passenger “then left her seat to advise the flight crew of the incident.” Delta personnel confirmed to the FBI that the passenger had reported the inappropriate touching to them, and one crew member described the woman as “visibly shaken and frantic.”
Saul Bienenfeld, Bidany’s lawyer, declined today to discuss the case against his client, but said that the rabbi “asserts his total innocence” and contends that the alleged sexual contact “never occurred.”
Following his arrest, Bidany posted $250,000 bond and was ordered to surrender his passport and limit his travels to the New York City metropolitan area. At his April 5 arraignment, the Orthodox rabbi sought permission to return to Israel, though that request was denied by a magistrate judge.
In a subsequent motion, Bienenfeld asked for his client’s curfew to be relaxed since during the Passover holiday he “needs to be in synagogue past 9 PM” and “wishes to see more of those individuals who seek advice in communities that are not near the area that he is sleeping.” At the time, Bidany was staying at a residence on Long Island.
Bidany’s bail package was further modified yesterday, when a judge agreed to allow him to travel to Israel from April 14 to May 1. In a motion, Bienenfeld said that his client wanted to return to Israel “for the Passover holiday,” and had also recently learned that his father is “gravely ill.” Bidany’s bond was increased to $500,000 by Magistrate Judge James Orenstein.
The rabbi’s trial is scheduled for May 4.
The complaint against Rabbi Bidany is posted at the bottom of this post.
[Hat Tip: Lumpy Rutherford.]
Update 4-16-11 10:13 pm – Rabbi Bidany's attorney sent me the following statement:
April 15, 2011 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Gavriel Bidany has plead Not Guilty to the outrageous charges that have been brought against him. After being denied by the Delta crew to change his seat so as not to be seated next to a women, he covered his entire body with a blanket so that he would not come into any contact with the women seated next to him, even accidentally. Three hours before landing he awoke to screams coming from the women seated next to him who accused him of touching her. He said, “You are mistaken, I am sleeping”. At no time did he say “it was a mistake”. This is a mis translation by the only Delta employee onboard who spoke Hebrew. At no time did Bidany ever touch the women who was seated next to him. Gavriel Bidany looks forward to the opportunity to have a full and complete trial and anticipates an acquittal after all of the facts are revealed. Saul Bienenfeld
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