Brian Patrick Durning was sentenced to five years behind bars for assaulting a 13-year-old on a flight last year.
A California man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for assaulting a 13-year-old on an overnight flight, during which he allegedly told her, “You are never going to see your family again.”
Brian Patrick Durning, 52, of Altadena, was ordered locked away by a U.S. district judge in Florida, according to an official announcement Wednesday. Durning was convicted by a jury in June of assault of a minor on an aircraft and two counts of simple assault. He was acquitted of a more serious charge of abusive sexual contact.
His prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release.
Durning was on a red-eye Delta Air Lines flight from Los Angeles to Orlando in June last year when the incident occurred. The child seated next to him said he began touching her after the cabin lights were dimmed and most passengers had fallen asleep, according to court documents.
She said he touched her hair and neck, and then moved his right hand along her inner thigh and along her groin area while calling her “honey-boo.”
The child, whose family was seated two rows ahead of her, said she had a panic attack and couldn’t speak or move during the assault.
“You are never going to see your family again,” she said he told her. He also allegedly said he was going to take her to Texas, according to a copy of the sentencing memorandum.
Durning only stopped when a female passenger on the child’s opposite side woke up, the court documents said.
The woman said she looked over and saw Durning quickly pull his hand away from the child’s inner thigh. She asked the girl, whom she described as shaking and crying, if he touched her and she answered yes.
The woman said she then switched seats with the girl and called for a flight attendant and the child’s mother, who walked over and reported seeing Durning’s pants unzipped. The female passenger also alleged that Durning attempted to touch her breast while she confronted him.
Durning, who has a history of nonviolent alcohol-related arrests, denied touching the child in a sexual manner. His attorney asked for a leaner sentence, suggesting that the child’s anxiety over sitting away from her family and next to a “visibly intoxicated” man likely blew things out of proportion.
She was “in a heightened state of anxiety when she was separated from her mother and brother,” and also suffered from a preexisting anxiety disorder called selective mutism, his attorney said.
Durning told investigators that he drank “one to two beers” at the airport before taking an Ambien pill and having a glass of wine on the plane. He said he fell asleep and woke up to someone asking him to move seats.
“Mr. Durning lacked judgment when he became intoxicated prior to a cross-country flight,” his attorney told the court. “Mr. Durning is truly sorry for his actions and how they have negatively impacted [the girl].”
The child’s mother testified that the teen “continues to experience significant mental and emotional trauma and sees a therapist to address these injuries.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website. For substance use disorder or mental health issues, in the U.S. call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.