A Japan bound flight was forced to land in Hawaii on Saturday after 29-year-old Hawaii resident Michael Tanouye allegedly sexually assaulted an unnamed woman in the plane’s bathroom.
According to initial reports released by the FBI, Tanouye was traveling with his mother who informed the plane's crew that her son was suffering from “depression” and was on medication. The crew agreed not to serve Tanouye any alcohol due to the prescription drugs.
An hour and 45 minutes into the flight, Tanouye calmly got up out of his seat and proceeded to the planes bathroom where he forced his way in on a Japanese woman. While inside the bathroom, Tanouye reportedly tried to remove the Japanese flier’s clothes before exposing himself to her.
According to FBI Special Agent Necosie Wilson, Tanouye was heard screaming words that were “incomprehensible” just before the alleged attack.
During the reported ‘sexual assault’ the victim was able to hit the panic button that notified the crew and passengers of the emergency at hand. The flight crew and a few volunteer passengers frantically tried to pry the bathroom door open, where Tanouye had allegedly barricaded himself.
After a few minutes of struggling the crew was able to unscrew the door’s hinges and wrestle Tanouye off of the victim. It took three passengers to keep Tanouye calm after the incident, which resulted in one passenger suffering an undisclosed injury. Tanouye’s mother finally gave him a dose of medicine and the man fell asleep.
The captain of the plane made the decision to turn the flight around and land in Honolulu, Hawaii where authorities were waiting to apprehend Tanouye. The FBI charged Tanouye with “interfering with a flight crew” and “aggravated sexual assault on board an aircraft.” The maximum sentence for an airplane sexual assault charge is life in prison.
Tanouye is currently being held in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center without bail. He appeared in court on Monday apparently sporting a facial injury on the left side of his face. Tanouye did not enter a plea in front of the court but he did nod “yes” when U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang asked if he understood the charges filed against him.
Asst. U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick told the judge that there will likely be more charges filed as well as there being ‘mental heath issues’ to consider.
Butrick and Tanouye’s family declined to comment when asked about further details regarding the case.