While on a flight from Houston to Albuquerque on Sunday, Bruce Michael Alexander, a 49-year-old man from Tampa, allegedly leaned forward in his seat and touched the right breast of the woman sitting in front of him.
The woman, who is identified in court documents as C.W, first assumed the touch was an accident. She had fallen asleep and woken up to a hand with “thick fingers” and “dirty fingernails” on her body. She alleges that “she felt her clothes move” and the fingers touched her “on her right side at and around her ‘bra line.’”
She dozed off again. Then, the victim alleges, he did it again. This time, C.W. confronted the man sitting in the window seat directly behind hers, who courts identified as Alexander. She told him that “she didn’t know why he thought it was ok [to touch her] and he needed to stop,” according to the complaint.
Flight attendants relocated her to the back of the plane for the duration of the flight.
It wasn’t until the flight landed at the Albuquerque International Sunport and Alexander was being transported by authorities that he actually mentioned President Trump.
In what was assumably a reference to the now-viral Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about how you can “do anything” to women when you’re a star, including “grab them by the pussy,” he invoked the president:
“The President of the United States says it’s ok to grab women by their private parts,” he reportedly told authorities.
According to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office in New Mexico, Alexander was charged with abusive sexual contact on Monday. The charge comes with a maximum penalty of two years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
Alexander claims that while he does remember the woman sitting in front of him speaking to him and switching seats, he could not describe her. In his written statement to federal agents, he says he was not drinking alcohol during the flight, nor did he take any sleep aids. He claims he was asleep most of the flight.
Invoking the president is an interesting choice, given that the alleged assault occurred on a plane. Jessica Leeds, one of the women who came forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault in 2016, alleges that while sitting beside Trump on a flight, three decades ago, he grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hands up her skirt.
Leeds alleges that they were about 45 minutes into a flight to New York when Trump moved the armrest and began touching her. They had never met. Eventually, she left her seat and went to the back of the plane to escape him.
“He was like an octopus,” she told the New York Times. “His hands were everywhere.”
“It was an assault,” she said.
Sexual harassment and violence are systemic problems no matter the political climate, but having the sitting president spout misogyny only makes life more dangerous for women and non-binary people. Trump’s misogyny is insidious, and not just on the legal level. It serves as a justification, if not a blessing, for people expressing (and acting on) their own.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.