Woman sues Delta, says passenger molested her, exposed himself on flight
A Michigan woman is suing Delta Airlines for $10 million after she says a man sexually assaulted her after being caught masturbating on a flight.
Rhonda Costigan, a waitress from Garden City, who was flying home to Metro Detroit from Myrtle Beach, S.C. with her 15-year-old daughter following a cheerleader competition on July 27, 2016, holds the airline responsible for allowing the "sexual deviant passenger to freely roam the plane" after he was caught exposing himself earlier in the flight, according to the lawsuit filed in Wayne County on June 9.
Christopher C. Finkley, a long-haul trucker from South Carolina, sat down next to Costigan and began groping her thigh while stating, he "liked white women," according to the filing.
Finkley continued to rub Costigan's leg and put his hands up her shorts despite her repeated requests for him to stop, the lawsuit says.
"I was trapped and unable to flee," Costigan said at a press conference Tuesday. "And with my daughter and her friends in the row behind me, I was frozen in terror.
Delta Airlines flight staff "could have stopped this, but instead chose not to."
The man stopped and returned to his assigned seat when it was announced the plane was preparing to land.
"After returning to his seat, the sexual deviant passenger resumed rubbing his exposed penis ... " according to the Wayne County Circuit Court filing.
Finkley was arrested and questioned after the flight landed and initially denied masturbating, telling police "the zipper of his shorts must have come down," according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court.
The federal court filing says officers told Finkley there were witnesses. He altered his story, saying he likes to massage himself under his pants and called it his "happy place."
Finkley was found guilty of indecent exposure and simple assault in March, ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, spend seven days in jail and pay $400 in restitution, according to federal court records.
Costigan said she learned at the sentencing that the airline was aware of Finkley's lewd behavior earlier in the flight but failed to take steps to make sure he didn't harm other passengers.
In his sentencing memorandum, Finkley's attorney wrote that he has worked as a long-haul trucker since turning 22 years old.
The stress from being away from his wife, children and other friends for weeks or months at a time, combined with him drinking two shots of Bombay gin, contributed to his actions on the Delta flight in 2016, his lawyer argued.
The court filing also mentioned Finkley's embarrassment over the incident and the strife it caused with his wife with a request that he be sentenced to probation and receive no jail sentence.