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Man accused of sexual abuse on flight from New Jersey to Bozeman pleads guilty

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Posted at 2:03 PM, Mar 22, 2024

BOZEMAN — A New Jersey man accused of repeatedly touching a woman on a Bozeman-bound aircraft in September 2023 pleaded guilty on Thursday, according to U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich.

Piyush Mathew, 31, of Robbinsville Township, New Jersey faces a maximum of two years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and at least five years of supervised release after pleading guilty to abusive sexual contact in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana states that Mathew and the victim were seated next to each other on a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Bozeman on Sept. 7, 2023. Mathew reportedly pretended to be asleep while touching the victim multiple times on different parts of her body, including her thighs, fingers, arms, stomach, and breasts.

According to the release, the victim attempted to lean forward at one point, but Mathew placed his hands on her side. The government alleged in court documents that the woman was in fear of Mathew and intended to alert the flight crew of his behavior upon the plane's arrival in Bozeman.

The release said Mathew stood immediately behind the victim for deboarding, which caused the victim to feel as though she couldn't report the incident to the flight crew. She reportedly asked another male passenger she did not know to pretend he was a friend of her husband's and stay with her as they left the airplane.

The male passenger told investigators that during the flight, he observed Mathew lean toward the victim and that she “looked like she was about to cry” after they landed.

Law enforcement later approached Mathew in New Jersey, according to the release; when Mathew was told they were investigating an incident on the flight, he reportedly said, “Did she complain that I was touching her?”

Mathew was released ahead of his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 31 before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided on Thursday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zeno B. Baucus is prosecuting the case which was investigated by the FBI, Gallatin Airport Authority, and Bozeman Airport Police.

Mathew is the second person to plead guilty in March to abusing a woman on a Bozeman-bound aircraft after 32-year-old Hunter Andrew Dietrich admitted to abusing a woman on a flight from Salt Lake City to Bozeman in February 2023.