Man Waives Hearing On Federal Charges He Fondled Air Passenger

PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – A man accused of fondling a woman who slept next to him on a flight from Las Vegas waived his preliminary hearing on federal charges.

Earlier in the day, Patrick Thomassey, the defense attorney for 58-year-old Wei-Ming Shi, confirmed his client was waiving Wednesday’s hearing. That gives federal prosecutors 30 days to indict Shi.

Thomassey declined other comment on behalf of the Mount Lebanon man.

Shi is accused of unlawful sexual contact aboard an aircraft.

The FBI complaint says Shi was returning from Las Vegas on a Southwest Airlines flight on Aug. 18 when he put his hands under the sleeping woman’s dress and on her thigh and buttocks. The FBI says the woman woke up during the alleged incident and alerted a flight attendant who had police meet the plane at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Officials say he cooperated with police. He was taken into custody by Allegheny County Police and questioned by the FBI.

The FBI says Shi claims he was getting mixed signals from the woman and that he was not under the influence of alcohol.  The victim told authorities she did not give Shi permission to touch her.

Authorities say they haven’t dealt with a case like this before.

“Very uncommon. Certainly the first time we’ve charged it since I’ve been here and in checking it does not appear this office has ever charged it before,” Hickton said.

If Shi is sentenced on these charges, he could face a maximum of five years in prison and a half a million dollars in fines.  The magistrate let Shi go on $10,000 unsecured bond and ordered him to surrender his passport.  He was also given travel restrictions.

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(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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