Hilo Man Arrested After Incident on Japan Airlines Flight

October 14, 2014, 12:08 PM HST (Updated February 25, 2016, 4:37 PM)
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A Japan Airlines flight from Honolulu to Kansai, Japan was forced back to Hawai’i Saturday following an alleged incident involving a 29-year-old Hilo man.

The FBI announced Monday that Michael Tanouye was arrested on Saturday, shortly after being escorted off of Japan Airlines Flight 791 by members of the Department of Public Safety Sheriff Division.

Tanouye, according to an affidavit released by an FBI spokesman, allegedly forced himself into the plane’s lavatory just moments after a female had entered it. He pushed the woman, a Japanese national who was returning home from her vacation, forcibly removed her pants and underwear, and exposed his genitalia to the victim.

The victim said that she pushed back at the man and was able to push an emergency button inside the lavatory. At the same time, the victim’s mother, seeing him enter the lavatory, advised flight attendants of the situation. The mother, a flight attendant, and other passengers forced the door open and subdued Tanouye.

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The incident, according to the victim, lasted between 1-2 minutes.

One of the passengers who attempted to subdue Tanouye, an unidentified male, was injured during the incident.

Tanouye was arrested and held at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu for Interfering with a Flight Crew and Aggrevated Sexual Assault Aboard an Aircraft. He is scheduled to appear in Federal Court today.

The FBI says that the statutory maximum penalty for interfering with a flight crew is 20 years in federal prison. The statutory maximum for the other charge is a life sentence.

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