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Sex offender accused of groping woman sleeping on plane

SrinivasErramilli | Illinois sex offenders register photo

Srinivasa Erramilli | Illinois sex offenders register photo

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Updated: January 14, 2013 7:29AM

Before you doze off on an airplane, beware who’s sitting next to you.

That’s the uncomfortable message from the trial of a serial sex offender from Aurora who already had been convicted twice of groping women as they slept on commercial flights.

Now Srinivasa S. Erramilli, 45, is accused of groping a third unconscious woman without consent. The Indian national allegedly touched the inner thigh of the sleeping woman on a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Chicago in June 2011.

After the woman woke up and angrily yelled and hit him, Erramilli allegedly had the gall to tell her that though the groping was inadvertent and that he, too, had been asleep, she had “liked it.”

Jurors — who went home from federal court after a three-day trial Wednesday night without reaching a verdict — were permitted by a judge to hear evidence from Erramilli’s two previous convictions: a 1999 case in which he grabbed a sleeping woman’s breasts on a Northwest Airlines flight from Detroit, and a 2002 case in which he fondled a woman’s breast on Northwest flight from San Jose.

In the most recent case, evidence showed that Erramilli had been sitting between the alleged victim, who was in a window seat, and her husband, who was in the aisle seat.

Several other passengers on the flight said they heard the woman exclaim, “Get your hands off of me!” when she woke.

But Erramilli told flight attendants the incident had been a misunderstanding and he asked that police not be called, mentioning his wife and kids, as he had in the 2002 incident. After that 2002 groping incident, Erramilli also told investigators that he would not have touched the woman “if she didn’t want it,” prosecutors say.

Already a registered sex offender, Erramilli has been barred from air travel as a condition of his bond. He was sentenced to probation after his previous convictions but faces a potential prison term if convicted again.

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