Update: Woman Accused of Groping Female Passenger Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

H eidi Anne McKinney pleaded guilty at the United States District Court for the District of Oregon on Friday, March 24, 2017 to assault with the intent to commit a felony, which was filed after an unidentified female passenger aboard an airplane — which operated as Alaska Airlines flight 621 en route from Las Vegas to Portland on the evening of Sunday, May 8, 2016 — complained that she was allegedly touched on her breast and genitals without her consent.

The indictment also alleges that McKinney touched another passenger on the inner thigh or groin during the same flight.

Update: Woman Accused of Groping Female Passenger Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

McKinney — who is now 27 years of age and is from Banks, which is a suburb of Portland — was arrested after the airplane landed at Portland International Airport and approached its assigned gate. Law enforcement officers of the Port of Portland Police Department were dispatched, as the incident was classified as a sex crime. The suspect was arrested based on probable cause of sexual abuse in the third degree; and bail was set at $2,500.00.

An investigation was conducted by both the police department and the Office of the District Attorney of Multnomah County; but the allegation was dismissed — as prosecutors of the state of Oregon eventually announced that they will not pursue a criminal case against the suspect — and the case was referred to the United States Attorney’s Office of the District of Oregon, as prosecutors for the federal government typically handle cases involving crimes alleged to have been committed aboard aircraft.

“She was led into court by a U.S. deputy marshal. She entered a not guilty plea to the charge”, according to this article written by Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian. “She was allowed to be released from custody under a set of pretrial conditions, including that she not possess or use any drugs including marijuana or alcohol. She also was ordered to obtain permission from a pretrial services officer before taking any other airplane flights.”

McKinney — who was initially indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of abusive sexual contact in August of 2016 — possibly faces a maximum penalty of ten years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.00; but she might more likely be sentenced to three years on probation, as reportedly jointly recommended by both prosecuting attorney Ravi Sinha and defense attorney Lisa Ludwig.

In the meantime, McKinney remains out of custody under a set of pretrial conditions — including that she not use drugs or alcohol. “Her fiancé told jail officers after the plane incident that McKinney does not metabolize alcohol like most people and ‘this is what happens,’ records show”, according to this article written by Steven Dubois for the Associated Press.

McKinney answered a series of yes-or-no questions from Michael H. Simon — who was the judge she faced in federal court this past Friday — and she made no lengthy statements. “McKinney said she recently completed alcohol treatment at a facility near Portland”, according to the aforementioned article.

“Miss McKinney did so with the intent to humiliate and harass the victim,” Sinha said. “(She) both made contact with victim’s body, including her inner thigh, and made a series of profane and lewd statements to the victim.”


Anna J. Brown is the judge who will preside over the sentencing of McKinney, which is scheduled for Monday, June 19, 2017 at 10:00 in the morning. She is not bound to accept the recommendation by both the prosecution and defense attorneys.

According to court records, McKinney has two prior convictions from 2008 and 2015 for driving under the influence of intoxicants; and at the time of her arrest in May of 2016, she was reportedly on bench probation in Washington County in Oregon.

This information would lead to the assumption that McKinney was supposedly inebriated in some way at the time which the incident occurred…

…but in this article, I wondered if an ugly old man committed the exact same offense, would he most likely have met a significantly worse fate? Is that perceived double standard blatantly wrong and unfair — or is it understandable due to human nature?

People have a right to not be abused by any other person — regardless of gender, age, appearance, religion, nationality, race or financial standing. I personally do not like when another person enters my personal space without my consent — let alone touches me — and the unidentified female passenger should not have been touched inappropriately in any way aboard that airplane.

“What if the old guy was some hot 27 year old guy that women swooned over and made sexual comments about”, asked DaninMCI, who is a reader of The Gate. “Would that matter? Sure it would. We all have the right not to be molested or exposed to sexual perverts. That is the reason that that the Transgender bathroom, shower, changing room issue is such a hot button.”

However, Mike — who is also a reader of The Gateasked these questions: “What exactly is your point Brian? Are you commenting on a perceived double standard in the legal process or in the comments section? From the photo, Ms McKinney is an attractive young woman. That shouldn’t mitigate what she is accused of doing, I think we agree on that. But, aside from the comments section, where is the double standard you imply? McKinney was detained, appropriately charged, and after posting bail, she was released. That’s how bail works.”

Well, Mike — I am almost certain that if a perverted old man committed the exact same offense on the exact same person, the prosecuting attorney would not seek three years probation for him. I am not typically a betting man; but I would bet that his sentence would have been significantly harsher…

Heidi McKinney. Source: The Office of the Sheriff of Multnomah County.

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