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Man charged with sexually assaulting SFO flight passenger

SAN FRANCISCO — An Israeli has been charged with sexually assaulting a woman who was seated next to him on a flight from Tel Aviv to San Francisco International Airport, court records show.

Yacov Levi Elbaz was charged Monday with abusive sexual contact, a federal offense, which prosecutors say involved unwanted touching and exposing himself to the alleged victim. Elbaz was arrested when the plane touched down in San Francisco, as the woman reported what happened to flight attendants and requested a new seat while they were still in the air, authorities said.

The charging records say Elbaz admitted to giving the woman a “baby bite” on her shoulder and said they touched each other’s private parts, but claimed everything was consensual. Authorities say the woman recorded part of what happened, in a video where she could be heard telling Elbaz to stop.

At a Wednesday court appearance, Elbaz surrendered his passport after being released on $50,000 bond, court records show. The woman is identified by her initials in public court records, but this newspaper isn’t using them, because of a policy to protect the identity of alleged sexual assault victims.

According to the complaint, the woman reported that Elbaz started “coming on to” her and making her feel uncomfortable, after they had a brief conversation in Hebrew. She said Elbaz eventually tried to unbutton her shirt and then placed his hands in her pants, before moving her hand onto his private parts. She said he used a jacket to hide this from the passenger in the aisle seat in their row.

“(The woman) begged ‘please move’ and told him not to put his hands on her,” the complaint says. Several times during the flight, she asked him to move so she could go to the bathroom and he refused, she later told authorities.

Authorities later interviewed the aisle seat passenger, who said that he was asleep for much of the flight. He said that the woman and Elbaz were talking at the start of the flight, and he assumed they knew one another. The passenger said they seemed to get “touchy” at one point, and that at the end of the flight, Elbaz told the passenger the woman was accusing him of being inappropriate and asked him to tell authorities nothing happened.

Elbaz also allegedly took out a bottle of cologne and began spraying it, telling the woman it would make her aroused, the complaint says. The woman told police the cologne smelled bad enough to make her gag, and that it made her feel sleepy, the complaint says.

The woman took three short videos without Elbaz noticing, authorities say. In one, she tells him to stop and he responds by telling her to do what he wants or he will hurt her, the complaint says.

Eventually, the woman pretended to be asleep. When Elbaz got up to use the restroom, she got out of the seat and told flight attendants what had happened, the complaint says.

Using a Hebrew translator, the FBI reviewed the videos and verified that the woman asked Elbaz to stop several times, the complaint says.

When police interviewed Elbaz, he told them the woman came on to him, offered him sex and that in their first conversation she became almost instantly emotional while discussing personal problems. He also said she kissed him and said she liked his cologne, asking if he would put more on, the complaint says.

Elbaz also alleged he told the woman he was “FBI and Mossad,” and that he at one point suspected she was a prostitute. He said she never told him to stop or leave him alone, contrary to what federal authorities say the video shows.

“Elbaz stated that if she did not want anything to happen, she should not have shown him photos or offered sex,” the complaint says.

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