Saturday, November 05, 2005
Testimony against legislator includes details of molestation
Honolulu - The 27-year-old woman who accused state Rep. Galen Fox of sexually molesting her on a United Airlines flight testified that she awoke to find his hand inside her jeans and rubbing her crotch.
Her testimony was consistent with statements she gave to FBI investigators a day after the Dec. 18 incident on Flight 56, an overnight flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles.
After a non-jury trial in the Central District of California on Oct. 20, U.S. District Judge Margaret Nagle found Fox (R, Waikiki-Ala Moana) guilty of a misdemeanor charge of abusive sexual contact with another person without their consent.
Fox, 62, resigned from office Monday after revealing he had been convicted of sexual misconduct, but he continued to deny the charges yesterday.
He confirmed to the Star-Bulletin the statements he gave to the FBI that he should not have been touching the woman, but said he just touched her right hand as it rested on her left arm.
"I have photographic recollection of that moment -- it was her hand on her arm -- her right hand was on her left elbow," he said.
In her statement, the woman, identified only as Jane Doe in court documents, told the FBI that she had taken a sleeping pill because she wanted to rest and fell asleep holding a folded airline blanket on her lap, her arms crossed over her blanket.
She said she awoke to a warm sensation pressing against her crotch. Lifting her blanket, she saw Fox's right hand rubbing her crotch, according to a statement of probable cause filed by Special Agent Rodney G. Fung of the FBI's Los Angeles International Airport Office.
According to the affidavit, the woman jumped up and said, "What the ---- are you doing?" to which Fox allegedly replied, "I touched you, I'm sorry I touched you." The woman alerted her parents who sat across the aisle from her and then notified flight attendants, who moved them to other seats.
On the advice of his attorney, Fox declined to comment yesterday on the statements the woman gave in court or to the FBI. He maintains he is not guilty despite the judge's verdict.
At the time he touched the woman and yesterday, Fox said he "absolutely" believes he wasn't doing anything wrong. "I was unaware at the time it constituted a chargeable offense," he told the Star-Bulletin.
He said he continues to have faith in the American judicial system, "but I got whacked."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rupa Goswami of the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office declined to respond to Fox's statements.
"All I can say is Judge Margaret Nagle heard the testimony of the victim, found the victim to be credible and found him guilty of a sexual molestation charge beyond a reasonable doubt," she said.
The woman testified that Fox apparently unfastened the button and zipper of her jeans, and she awoke to find his hand inside her jeans and groping her, Goswami said.
Los Angeles police were waiting for Fox when the flight arrived at about 6:30 a.m. the next day. In a statement to FBI agents, Fox denied rubbing the woman's crotch or unzipping her jeans. He admitted to reaching over to touch the woman, whom he described as an attractive Asian female, and said that he should not have been touching her. "He reiterated he was only reaching to touch her hand and could not explain why he wanted to touch her hand," Fung wrote in his affidavit.
Fox and the woman had not talked before the incident.
"I feel like I'm in a difficult position. When she jumped up, I could see I was touching her. It's possible that I committed a crime," Fox told the agents.
Prosecutors were expected to ask the courts that Fox seek counseling and serve a term of probation, but Goswami said yesterday that she will wait to review a pre-sentence report before deciding. The charge brought against Fox was appropriate, Goswami said.
"We do take safety on board airplanes seriously and bring these types of charges when we feel it's warranted," she said.
Fox faces a statutory maximum of six months in prison and five years on supervised release when sentenced Jan. 25. Or he could receive five years probation and be ordered to pay a nominal fine.
Fox said he will step down effective Dec. 1.
Russell Pang, Gov. Linda Lingle's press secretary, said the governor would find a successor under a process similar to that used for the seat held by Rep. Sol Kaho'ohalahala. At that time, Lingle formed two committees to screen nominations and make recommendations to her.
She did not use that process when she named Bev Harbin to fill a vacancy this summer and was criticized when it turned out that Harbin had tax liens and a criminal record.
Pang said that after Fox's conviction, the legislator told a staff member in the Governor's Office that he had been found guilty and on Oct. 25 he asked to meet with Lingle. The meeting was held Monday and he announced his resignation later that day.
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