(STL.News) – The president of a bible college will appear in court today on charges he sexually assaulted a student on an international flight bound for Newark, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Cornelius Tilton, 65, of New Orleans, Louisiana, was charged by complaint with one count of abusive sexual contact after being arrested by FBI agents on Nov. 30, 2019, when the flight, which departed from Tel Aviv, Israel, arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport. He is scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Tilton was sitting in a window seat next to the victim, a 19-year-old male student at a theological seminary who was traveling with a group of students on a religious trip to Israel. Tilton accompanied the group as an unofficial guide and gave speeches.
During the flight, Tilton allegedly placed his hand on the victim’s bare calf. Tilton continued to touch the victim’s thigh, and eventually began rubbing the victim’s genitals over the victim’s shorts. The victim did not react, or look at Tilton, out of shock and fear. Tilton took the victim’s hand and placed it on Tilton’s erect penis, on top of his clothing. The victim got up to go to the bathroom, in hopes of ending the assault. Tilton also went to the bathroom. When the victim and Tilton were back in their seats, Tilton continued to touch the bare skin of the victim’s lower back, underneath the victim’s clothing. Tilton moved his hand around to the front of the victim’s waistline, and attempted to place his hand down the victim’s pants, when the victim blocked Tilton’s hand with his elbow. The victim then got up from the seat and informed a flight attendant about the assault.
The charge of abusive sexual contact carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison or a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Macurdy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.
The charge and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.