SALT LAKE CITY — A California man accused of groping and sexually propositioning a teenage girl on a flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City was sentenced to three years of probation Friday.
Hans Loudermilk of Oceanside, California, apologized for touching the 15-year-old girl's chin and rubbing her leg on the March 2014 flight. He said he was in the beginning stages of bipolar disorder at the time, and has since been treated.
Loudermilk pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offensive touching charge in December in a deal with federal prosecutors, who dropped two felony counts of sexual abuse on an aircraft in exchange. He faced up to six years in prison Friday.
Prosecutor Alicia Cook asked the judge to sentence him to five years of probation, saying the incident was serious and traumatizing for the victim but probation would be better than prison at preventing something like it from happening again.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell said the victim was vulnerable when she was seated next to him on the plane. Campbell said bipolar disorder is tough to overcome, and he's lucky his wife of 26 years, who appeared in court Friday, was sticking by him.
"That's very good. Many would not," she said.
"It's taken a lot of work," he replied.
Campbell also ordered him to serve 100 hours of community service in lieu of a fine. He will serve his sentence in California.
Prosecutors said the 66-year-old Loudermilk told her he could teach her things sexually that boys her age could not and said she was old enough to marry him in Utah.
The girl reported the incident to security shortly after the plane landed. When Loudermilk saw her talking to officers, he entered an airport gift shop, removed his button-up shirt and replaced it with a jacket, possibly to duck police, prosecutors said.
Defense attorney Robert Steele said his client had lost a son in 2005, and his illness had been coming on slowly for years. At the time of the groping, he'd also been drinking and taking the painkiller Vicodin and didn't understand the world around him.
"He is now in treatment and in recovery and he knows he needs to take responsibility for his health," he said.