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Man Pleads Guilty to Sexually Assaulting a Sleeping Teenager on a Flight from Indianapolis to Denver


An Indiana man, 39, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to sexually abusing a sleeping teenager on a flight from Indianapolis to Denver, Colo., federal prosecutors announced on Wednesday.

On Oct. 6, 2017, Ian Wagner was seated on a flight next to an 18-year-old he did not know. The indictment noted that Wagner knew the sleeping teenager was “incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct and physically incapable of declining participation in, and communicating an unwillingness to engage in, the sexual contact.”

When the teenager woke up mid-flight to find Wagner rubbing her inner thigh, she pulled her leg away, took a picture of him, and got up to use the restroom and look for another seat, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors say that she returned to find Wagner with a jacket over his lap, moving his hand up and down beneath it, and staring at her.

“Wagner then lifted the jacket to expose his penis to the woman, and continued to stare at her while masturbating for approximately six minutes,” U.S. District Judge John M. Gerrard wrote, in a pre-trial ruling summarizing the allegations. “Eventually, Wagner stopped masturbating, zipped his pants, and sat with his jacket on his lap, staring at the victim for much of the remaining flight time.”

The woman complained to Frontier Airlines, who identified Wagner as the perpetrator.

He was indicted under seal on Sept. 24, 2020, a little less than a year ago. Authorities arrested him in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a few weeks later on Oct. 4.

Prosecutors revealed on the road to trial that Indiana authorities compiled at least four separate reports of Wagner previously being seen masturbating in his car in a public parking lot, dating as far back as 2013. That year, Wagner allegedly appeared to be fondling himself outside of a gas station before entering the station and taking a photograph underneath the skirt of the woman ahead of him in line.

“Wagner then returned to his van and resumed masturbating and the witness could see that Wagner’s pants were unzipped and the tip of his penis was exposed,” the filing states, referring to the earlier report from 2013. “When the police arrived and asked Wagner if he wanted to deny the accusations, he said no.”

A year later, a witness claimed to have seen Wagner “fondling his exposed penis while parked at a dance studio where his daughter and a witness’s daughter both took classes,” according to court records.

The witness claimed to recognize both Wagner and his 3-year-old, who was said to be in the back seat of the vehicle.

The two other alleged incidents took place in the parking lots of a Target and a grocery store. A woman who witnessed the latter incident recounted hearing the sound of pornography and Wagner saying “dirty slut” and “come touch my cock” while moving his arms as if masturbating.

Wagner tried to suppress the evidence of his alleged prior acts because he had never been convicted of those offenses, but the judge denied that motion in June.

He pleaded guilty to one count of abusive sexual contact on Wednesday, a few months after that defeat.

Now scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 15, Wagner faces up to three years in prison. He will be forced to register as a sex offender.

[Image via WANE screengrab]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."