Airline worker accused of groping woman on flight

Tribune reporter

A 49-year-old Las Vegas airline worker is accused of groping a sleeping 21-year-old woman he was seated next to during a Southwest Airlines flight that landed in Chicago Tuesday afternoon, according to Chicago police.

Kary Scott Houghton, 49, of the 5600 block of Surrey Street in Las Vegas, Nev., was charged with one count of misdemeanor battery, according to Chicago police.

Houghton was released on his own recognizance Tuesday night after being arrested at 12:40 p.m. Tuesday at Midway Airport. Houghton told police he worked in ground transport for Southwest Airlines, police said.

Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins confirmed the man is employed by the airline but it was not immediately known if the airline will take any action to reprimand him.

“Our crew worked together to ensure local authorities met the flight,’ Hawkins said in the statement. “We will continue to cooperate with them as their investigation -- and ours -- continue.’’

Chicago police responded to an altercation aboard incoming flight No. 580 after staffers from Southwest Airlines called, according to a police report.

When the flight landed, police interviewed a witness who told authorities that she’d left her aisle seat briefly to visit a restroom and when she came back she saw Houghton in the middle seat, with his head down on his tray table, facing the 21-year-old victim, who was sleeping in her window seat, according to the report.
Houghton was talking but the witness said she couldn’t hear what he was saying and couldn’t see the man’s hands. But when he sat up and put his right hand on the back side of the victim, she alerted a flight attendant, the report stated.

Officers spoke to the victim, a 21-year-old California woman, who told them when she was sleeping with her head on the tray table she felt someone rub her back and grope her breast and the front of her pants before trying to unfasten her seat belt, the report said.

The woman woke up, placed her purse on her lap, and pushed Houghton's hands away, the report said. He was placed in custody and processed by Chicago police.

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