Pastor caresses stranger's butt on flight to LA

Posted at 3:39 PM, May 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-23 18:39:14-04

A Peruvian church pastor pleaded guilty Monday to groping a sleeping woman's buttocks on a Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Los Angeles last month.

Juan Carlos Del Carmen Leyva, 41, entered his plea in Los Angeles federal court to a charge of abusive sexual contact aboard an aircraft. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer on June 6.

Leyva admitted touching the sleeping woman -- whom he did not know -- on the outside of her pants for about three minutes on April 18 "with the intent to arouse and gratify his sexual desire," according to his plea agreement.     

Leyva initially attempted to engage the woman -- identified only as S.R. -- in conversation, but she was not interested "because he had horrible breath," according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent who investigated the case.     

At some point, after she fell asleep, she was awakened by Leyva squeezing her right buttock, the agent wrote. The woman, who was traveling with her sister, called over a flight attendant to report the incident.

When the attendant arrived, Leyva apologized, saying, "I'm sorry. I have a family." He attempted to show a photo he had removed from his wallet, according to the FBI agent, who wrote that Leyva "admitted that he had desire and intent to touch S.R."

The agent also wrote that Leyva told him that "he could not lie to God."

Leyva is the pastor of a church in Peru and had been traveling around the United States for about a week visiting houses of worship, according to the affidavit.