Woman admits groping another female passenger on board plane

Robin De Peyer
Guilty plea: Heidi McKinney: Washington County Sheriff's Office

A woman could face 10 years in prison after admitting groping another female passenger on board a flight.

Heidi McKinney, 27, intended to “humiliate and harass” her victim during the ordeal on board an Alaska Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Portland, it is claimed.

Her victim complained to authorities that she had been touch on the breast and genitals without consent during the incident in May last year.

"Miss McKinney did so with the intent to humiliate and harass the victim," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Sinha said at U.S. District Court in Portland. "(She) both made contact with victim's body, including her inner thigh, and made a series of profane and lewd statements to the victim."

McKinney originally faced a charge of abusive sexual contact, but ultimately pleaded guilty to assault with the intent to commit a felony.

The maximum penalty is 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. However, Sinha and defence attorney Lisa Ludwig plan to jointly recommend a sentence of three years on probation. The judge does not have to accept the recommendation.

Court documents show McKinney, of Oregon, was convicted of drunken driving in 2008 and 2015. Her fiance told jail officers after the plane incident that McKinney does not metabolise alcohol like most people and "this is what happens," records show.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon scheduled sentencing for June 19. In the meantime, McKinney remains out of custody under a set of pretrial conditions, including that she not use drugs or alcohol.