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Boston doctor found not guilty on charge of lewd acts near a 14-year-old girl on an airplane

BOSTON (AP) — A Boston doctor was found not guilty Wednesday on a charge of lewd acts near a 14-year-old girl on an airplane after a three-day trial in federal court in Boston.

Lawyers for Dr. Sudipta Mohanty, 33, said more than a dozen passengers sitting in seats near Mohanty and flight attendants charged with serving the passengers said they didn't see anything consistent with the accusation while on the flight.

Mohanty said the accusation and trial have been incredibly difficult for himself and his family for a crime he didn't commit.

“My fiancé was sitting next to me on that flight, and neither of us can understand why this happened to us," he said in a written statement. "I have dedicated my life to caring for others as a physician, and it has been heartbreaking to step away while I dealt with these false accusations."

Mohanty opted for a bench trial, meaning his acquittal was handed down by a judge, not a jury. He had been indicted on one count of lewd, indecent and obscene acts on an aircraft.

Investigators had said Mohanty was a passenger aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Boston in May 2022 with a female companion and was seated next to a 14-year-old girl traveling with her grandparents, who were sitting nearby.

About halfway through the flight, investigators said, the 14-year-old said she noticed that Mohanty had covered himself with a blanket up to his neck and that his leg was bouncing.

A short time later, the minor said the blanket was on the floor, no longer covering Mohanty, and that Mohanty was masturbating, according to prosecutors. The minor moved herself to an empty seat in a different row. After arriving in Boston, she told family members, and police were notified.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy said he was disappointed in the outcome, but he respects the verdict.

“Our office has no reservations about having proceeded with this case. Our office will remain steadfast in supporting victims, particularly minor children. It is critical that victims know they can come forward, and they will be heard and be fully supported by our office,” Levy said in a written statement.

Mohanty’s lawyer, Claudia Lagos, said the accusations have been devastating.

“Dr. Mohanty is a talented and dedicated medical doctor. He has absolutely no history of wrongdoing whatsoever," she said in a statement. “The last six months have been a bizarre nightmare for him, and he is relieved this is finally over so that he can rebuild his life.”

Mohanty had faced a sentence of up to 90 days in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of as much as $5,000.

Mohanty, of Cambridge, worked as a doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. The hospital said last year that he is no longer practicing at the hospital.