DNY59/iStockBy PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News
(MOSCOW) -- The trial of Paul Whelan, the former United States Marine held in Russia on spying charges, wrapped up in a Moscow court on Monday, with lawyers making their closing arguments and Russian prosecutors asking the court to sentence Whelan to 18 years in a Russian prison colony -- close to the maximum possible sentence for espionage.
The judge is expected to give a verdict at a June 15 hearing.
“The prosecutor asked for a very tough punishment, 18 years in a high-security penitentiary,” Whelan’s Russian lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said after the hearing on Monday.
Whelan, a security director for the American auto parts supplier BorgWarner, was arrested in his hotel room in late December 2018 by Russia’s FSB domestic intelligence service while he was visiting Moscow for a friend’s wedding.
Since then he has been held in the city’s Lefortovo prison, which houses suspected spies and high-profile prisoners.
Whelan’s family and his lawyers have insisted that he is not a spy and have accused Russia of framing the 50-year-old in order to use him as a political bargaining chip.
Whelan’s case is classed as secret and Russian authorities have never publicly described what he is accused of. The trial began in mid-April and has been held behind closed doors. The coronavirus lockdown has prevented journalists from even being present at the court building.
But the outlines of the case have emerged from Whelan’s lawyers and through leaks to the Russian media. According to them, Whelan is accused of receiving classified materials from a longtime Russian friend on behalf of U.S. intelligence.
Whelan’s lawyers have said in reality those charges are based around a crude frame up, set up by Whelan’s friend who was working with the FSB.
The friend, they said, brought a memory card to Whelan’s hotel room in a December 2018 visit which Whelan had believed would contain photos of a trip the two had taken the previous winter to a monastery town near Moscow.
Instead, unknown to Whelan, it contained the classified materials, and minutes after it was given to him, FSB agents burst in and detained him.
In the days before the sting, the friend had unexpectedly picked Whelan up at the airport when he arrived, Zherebenkov said, and had plied him with whiskey. He had secretly recorded Whelan, while trying to lead him to say incriminating things, the lawyer said.
The lawyers have not named the friend due to the trial’s secrecy rules, saying only that he works in the Russian security services. But Whelan’s family members have named him as Ilya Yatsenko, someone Whelan had known for 10 years. Last week, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported he was a major in the FSB’s Department "K", the powerful unit responsible for combating economic crimes.
Yatsenko has testified twice in court. Last week, Whelan testified that he believes his friend was motivated to betray him in part because he owed Whelan over $1,000 for two iPhones he bought for him, Zherebenkov said.
Whelan, who left the Marines on a bad-conduct discharge in 2007, is a self-described Russophile, who had traveled for years to Russia on vacations and had made many friends there, according to his family. In addition to the U.S., he also holds Irish, British and Canadian citizenship.
In his closing statement on Monday, Whelan told the judge he greatly respected Russian culture and had never conducted any spying activity, Zherebenkov said.
The United States in recent months has repeatedly called on Russia to release Whelan, saying it has never provided any evidence to support his detention.
Former U.S. intelligence officials have said Whelan does not fit the profile of an American spy and have said his case resembles that of classic KGB stings during the Cold War.
There has been speculation that Russia may have seized Whelan with the hope of exchanging him for Russians imprisoned in the U.S. on criminal convictions. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly denied Russia engaged in hostage-taking but then noted that any exchange could only be possible once Whelan was convicted.
Whelan’s other Russian lawyer, Olga Karlova, told ABC News last week that Whelan hoped the U.S. would seek to rapidly trade him after his conviction. But she said there was no indication that would happen.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Ovidiu Dugulan/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 346,000 people worldwide.
Nearly 5.5 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations' outbreaks.
Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 1.6 million diagnosed cases and at least 98,223 deaths.
Here's how the news is developing Tuesday. All times Eastern:
6:02 a.m.: UK minister resigns over senior aide's lockdown controversy
A junior minister of the United Kingdom's parliament has resigned over the controversy surrounding British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's closest aide, Dominic Cummings, who flouted nationwide lockdown restrictions in March.
Douglas Ross stepped down from his post as parliamentary under-secretary of state for Scotland on Tuesday, saying in a statement, "There was much I still hoped to do in this role but events over the last few days mean I can no longer serve as a member of this government."
Ross' resignation comes on the heels of a press statement made by Cummings, in which he admitted to driving his child and ill wife more than 250 miles with from their London home to his parents' house in northern England at the end of March during the lockdown. He said he didn't make any stops along the way.
"I was worried that if my wife and I were both seriously ill, possibly hospitalized, there is nobody in London that we could reasonably ask to look after our child and expose themselves to COVID," Cummings said at a news conference Monday.
Upon arriving at his parent's home, Cummings said he developed symptoms of COVID-19 while his wife began feeling better. Their 4-year-old son also fell ill and spent a night in the hospital but ultimately tested negative for the virus. As they recovered, Cummings said he sought "expert medical advice" and was told it was safe to drive his family back to London in mid-April. He maintained that he acted "reasonably and legally" and said he doesn't regret what he did.
"While the intentions may have been well meaning, the reaction to this news shows that Mr. Cummings interpretation of the government advice was not shared by the vast majority of people who have done as the government asked," Ross said in his statement Tuesday. "I have constituents who didn't get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who didn't visit sick relatives because they followed the guidelines of the government. I cannot in good faith tell them they were all wrong and one senior advisor to the government was right."
5:24 a.m.: US reports over 19,000 new coronavirus cases
More than 19,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Monday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The country also reported over 500 new deaths from the disease on the same day.
The United States is, by far, the hardest-hit nation in the coronavirus pandemic. New York remains the worst-hit U.S. state, with at least 362,764 diagnosed cases and 23,488 deaths, according to the latest data from the New York State Department of Health.
3:50 a.m.: Latin America's largest airline files for US bankruptcy protection
Latin America's largest airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday as the travel industry reels from the impact of lockdowns, quarantines and other restrictions imposed by governments around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic.
LATAM Airlines Group said it and its affiliated companies in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the United States sought bankruptcy court protection in New York.
"The U.S. Chapter 11 financial reorganization process provides a clear and guided opportunity to work with our creditors and other stakeholders to reduce our debt, address commercial challenges that we, like others in our industry, are facing as a group," the Santiago, Chile-based company said in a statement Tuesday. "It is very different from the concept of bankruptcy in other countries and is not a liquidation proceeding."
LATAM Airlines CEO Roberto Alvo said the group is "committed to continuing flying." The bankruptcy filing won't affect efforts to return to regular operations and the company will respect its commitments with cargo customers. Travelers with existing tickets, vouchers and air miles can still use them.
"Given the impact that that COVID-19 generated crisis has had on the aviation industry, LATAM has been forced to make a series of extremely difficult decisions in the past few months," Alvo said in a video message Tuesday. "These have been taken with the objective of ensuring the protection of the group, continuing operations and meeting commitments."
LATAM Airlines is South America's biggest carrier by passenger traffic. It operated around 1,300 flights per day and transported a record 74 million passengers last year, according to the company's more recent annual report.
"We are focused on looking towards a post-COVID future and centered in our business's transformation," Alvo said, "so that we may adapt to a new world and a new and evolving way of flying, where the health and safety of our passengers and employees is the first priority."
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
yorkfoto/iStockBy KENDALL KARSON and MEG CUNNINGHAM, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's recent tirade against mail voting was a defiant attempt at elevating his argument of voter fraud -- without evidence -- but it comes as the largest single day of voting since the onset of the coronavirus crisis is set to take place next week.
Even as Trump seeks to turn the issue into a pitched battle, election officials in a number of states, including those run by Republicans, are expanding access to the voting alternative as part of their broader preparations amid the pandemic for the June 2 election.
The president, who has often railed against mail voting by alleging it is ripe for fraud, stepped up his assault last week by targeting efforts in two battleground states -- Michigan and Nevada -- aimed at making it easier to obtain an absentee or mail-in ballot. He threatened to cut off federal funding to those states over what he claimed were "illegal" tactics.
Election officials in both states refuted Trump's attacks, with a spokesperson for Michigan's Democratic secretary of state calling Trump's tweet "false," and Nevada's Republican secretary of state saying the shift to a mail-in election was done "legally."
But the president continued his attack over Memorial Day weekend, tweeting, "The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history" and insinuated that advocates of mail-in voting are using the pandemic "for this Scam."
Election experts told ABC News that there has been no widespread fraud in mail voting and that the practice does not decisively give one party's camp an edge over the other.
Efforts to encourage vote-by-mail are coming from Republicans, too
Trump's latest broadside on vote-by-mail comes against the backdrop of seven states, plus the District of Columbia, abruptly changing their blueprint for running elections to adjust to social distancing and other state and federal guidelines ahead of presidential primaries on June 2.
But in those states, despite the president's rhetoric on mail voting, a host of Republican state parties, in Pennsylvania, Indiana and New Mexico are encouraging voters to cast ballots by mail or absentee.
"For several weeks now -- really well, the last month -- we've been in regular cadence of letting all of our folks know about the ability to vote by absentee in a no-fault manner," Indiana Republican Party Chair Kyle Hupfer said. "We haven't been too worried about that."
In Pennsylvania, voters can even request an absentee ballot right on the state GOP's site, with detailed instructions on how to maneuver the voting alternative.
Even some GOP candidates across the seven states are urging voters to use the prominent voting alternative.
In the same video that Mark Ronchetti, a Republican running for Senate in New Mexico, underscores the stakes of his election as a "chance to elect a conservative who will stand with President Trump," he also encourages voters to cast their ballots by mail or in-person, providing supporters with a link to request an absentee ballot on his website.
Matt Rosendale, a GOP candidate for Montana's at-large House seat, also shared a video outlining how to receive a mail ballot to "send a proven Trump conservative to Washington."
And GOP congressman, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District, pushed for voters to request a mail ballot before his state's deadline.
Election prepping during a pandemic
Despite Trump's attempts to cast doubt on the integrity of the primary tool for voting during the crisis, election officials are now gearing up for one day of contests -- second only to Super Tuesday -- that look far different from only a few months ago.
In interviews with election officials across the country, most are moving quickly to prepare their staff and voters for the changes that the coronavirus placed on voting administration. Some states, like Rhode Island and Montana, have instituted changes to their voting system in recent years which have widely expanded vote-by-mail procedures. Others, like Pennsylvania and Indiana, are working around the clock to prepare voters and elections officials for the massive influx of absentee ballot requests.
Before the pandemic, of the seven states and the nation's capital voting on June 2, six allowed for no-excuse absentee voting. In late March, Indiana's elections board ordered the expansion of access to absentee mail-in voting to all voters in the Hoosier state -- without requiring an excuse.
Across geographies and party lines, secretaries of states, local election boards and candidates themselves have given a strong endorsement of the absentee voting process, encouraging voters to request their ballots through applications in states which require them.
In New Mexico, one of the states which hit early benchmarks for re-opening, officials have partnered with the state workforce department to match those who filed for unemployment with local election boards who are short-staffed ahead of the primary.
As the country bolsters its vote-by-mail programs, advocates raised concerns about Native American voters, many of whom live in rural areas of New Mexico and may not have access to resources needed to vote-by-mail.
Some rural post offices -- which are often the closest to Native American reservations -- are only open during limited hours. The shortened operating hours put more constraints on when and how communities are able to send and receive mail, but state officials say ample in-person voting will be available.
"We're basically having a regular election, like we normally would. It's just that we are encouraging everyone to use an absentee ballot and vote from home," Alex Curtas, a spokesperson for the New Mexico secretary of state, told ABC News.
Curtas said the vilification of absentee voting is disappointing: New Mexico, like most states, has safeguards in place to prevent tampering with an election.
"There are these safeguards and bulwarks against people trying to tamper with an election," he said. "Some people try to make a bigger deal out of it than it is."
Pennsylvania, Indiana readying for potential long lines and backlogs
Last year, lawmakers in Pennsylvania, which reported nearly 900 new coronavirus cases on Friday, implemented a vast expansion of absentee and vote-by-mail procedures, already inciting apprehension -- especially when coupled with the state's status as a 2020 battleground.
Suzanne Almeida, the interim executive director for Common Cause Pennsylvania, a voting rights organization, told ABC that for officials in Pennsylvania, "this was never going to be an easy election."
"Pennsylvania in 2020 was always going to be crazy. It's a swing state in the presidential election year. And then on top of that, in 2019 we passed historic voting reform that gave us vote-by-mail for the first time, and changed the voter registration deadline closer to election day," Almeida said.
Advocates are worried that larger cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which have seen significant reductions in polling places, may present issues like long lines and wait times.
In Philadelphia, there will be 77% fewer polling places for the June 2 primary, with only 190 in-person polling places this election, a dramatic decrease from the 831 in last November's municipal election, local election officials confirmed to ABC News.
In Indiana, which is already entering phase 3 of re-opening, officials have seen delays due to the volume of absentee ballot requests, according to Russell Hollis, the deputy director of the Marion County clerk's office, home to Indianapolis.
"There are some delays, particularly with the volume of requests that we've had. It's very difficult to tell whether the post office is a factor," Hollis said.
Hollis said the vast increase in ballot requests is what has put the most strain on officials.
In 2016, the county mailed less than 6,000 absentee ballots. With days remaining until the final deadline, county officials had already mailed over 71,000 ballots to voters.
Upper Midwest red states embrace vote-by-mail
Elections officials in Montana, a state which has managed to fend off the spread of the virus with under 500 reported cases, echoed that assurance with their absentee process, saying a hiccup with a ballot is rare and often quickly resolved.
"If (a ballot) gets rejected, we contact the voter and let them know, and they can come in and resolve it," Eric Semerad, the Gallatin County election administrator, said. "It's very, very rare that that happens at all. It's usually forgetfulness, or household errors, things like that."
In South Dakota, which saw the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita for the region in mid-April but currently has one of the lowest fatality rates in the country, election officials are confident the Tuesday primaries will run smoothly.
"One gift we were given is Wisconsin," South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett, a Republican, told ABC News of the Badger's state April 7 spring election, which took place at the height of the state's lockdown. "They weren't able to model after anybody else -- we were all on the sidelines kind of watching them. But we've had enough time to prepare for this now."
"I think we're going to be in good shape," he added.
The state already had a robust vote-by-mail system, but under Barnett's leadership, election officials sent application forms to every registered voter in the state -- the same move Michigan's secretary of state announced last week that triggered Trump's attack. Barnett said that they were just using "the tool already in our toolbox" to encourage voters to use the absentee option, a state-wide push done for the first time to his knowledge.
"There's no blueprint, obviously, nobody's ever seen anything like this before," he said of conducting an election during a pandemic.
For in-person voting on election day, there have been some election worker shortages leading to the state reducing the number of polling sites. But Barnett doesn't anticipate "a lot of pressure on the polls," since there has been an influx of absentee ballots already returned, which is already nearly half of 2016's total election turnout. Poll workers will have hand sanitizer, Clorox wipers, gloves, masks and one-time use pens at polling sites.
In and around the nation's capital, election officials lean on mail ballots
In Washington, D.C., which has seen one of the starkest racial divides when it comes to the impact of the coronavirus, all of the nearly 150 precincts were closed due to the pandemic.
City officials urged residents to cast their ballots by mail, but for those who were unable to do so, 20 in-person vote centers will be available to every voter, no matter what address they are registered at.
Rachel Coll, the spokesperson for the city's Board of Elections, touted that its vote-by-mail system has been in place for 10 years and said they are strongly encouraging residents to use the no-excuse option for the primary.
The city, though, has trounced 2016's special ballot requests in the primary, which amounted to less than 8,000. In 2020, with days to go until hitting the deadline, the city has received more than 70,000 requests for a mail-in ballot. Washington also extended the deadline to receive a ballot to June 12, although they must be postmarked by June 2, to allow for more time for ballots to be received.
In Maryland, however, election officials are facing challenges with vote-by-mail, after opting to use a third-party vendor to handle printing and mailing ballots, according to a spokesperson for the state board of elections.
The board has expressed disappointment with the speed of the vendor, the spokesperson said, after it was reported by the Baltimore Sun that ballots in Baltimore County were marked as sent when they had yet to be.
The state used a special election in late April as a test run for their primary, which was ordered to be an all-mail election due to the pandemic. Election officials, who ran into issues during the special election when ballots sent to voters had conflicting instructions, are hoping for a smoother run this time around.
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Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Huffington Post(NEW YORK) -- New name, who's this? It hasn't even been a month since Elon Musk and Grimes welcomed their baby boy and they've already had to alter his name.
The couple originally named their newborn X Æ A-12, however, that violated California state law which states that only the 26 letters from the alphabet are allowed to be used, prompting the duo to change the name to X Æ A-Xii.
Grimes, born Claire Elise Boucher, confirmed the news and explained the change in a series of Instagram comments on Sunday.
After a curious fan asked if she renamed her son, the 32-year-old responded with the new spelling which simply changed the number 12 into the Roman version of the number before adding, "Roman numerals. Looks better TBH."
Although California law only mentions letters from the alphabet being used, she confirmed that "One dash is allowed."
Although the spelling of the moniker has changed, the pronunciation remains the same. During his time as a guest on Joe Rogan's podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, Musk walked through how to say his son's name.
He explained that the X is pronounced like the letter and "the AE is like pronounced 'ash,'" then A-12.
By Danielle Long, ABC News
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
ucpage/iStockBy ERIC MOLLO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- Georgia was one of the earliest states in the country to relax coronavirus restrictions. Businesses are opening back up again across the state, including in Albany, a hard-hit city of over 70,000 people, many of whom are African-American.
Glenn Singfield was born and raised in Albany, Georgia. He is the owner of two restaurants there, The Flint, a sprawling establishment located in a brick building along the Flint River, which runs through downtown Albany, and the smaller but also popular Albany Fish Company, which is currently serving take-out and delivery.
Singfield spoke to ABC News' Cheri Preston, host of ABC News' Perspective Podcast, about managing his establishments during the pandemic and how his region has been affected by the crisis on a special edition of the show, Pandemic: A Nation Divided, examining how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Americans along racial and socioeconomic divides.
"Most, but not all the restaurateurs here... we were a bit nervous [following the state's reopening plan]... We were very excited about opening because our customers are asking for us. However, we feel like the city of Albany was a little different than the rest of the cities in the state, so we wanted to take a little bit more precaution."
According to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, black Americans and Latinos are nearly three times as likely to personally know someone who has died from the virus than white Americans as the coronavirus impacts racial and ethnic minorities disproportionately. Almost three quarters of Albany's population is African-American, and the main hospital in the area, Phoebe Putney, has reported more than 100 deaths from the disease. It is one of Georgia’s hardest-hit areas.
Singfield praised Phoebe Putney's doctors and nurses, saying he and his kids were born in the hospital, and says he has seen the impacts of COVID-19 on Albany, Georgia firsthand:
"I'm a young black man... not as young as I used to be… I'm forty-years-old. I'm from the South. I've seen racism. I think everybody's been treated, for the most part, fairly. However, there are some issues that can be discussed. In my community, the African-American community has been hit the hardest, and I don't know what that attributes to. I don't want to put the blame on what it could be, but it needs to be researched, handled, and figured out why because it's impacting our community tremendously... If you don't have the means and also the knowledge, you don't know what to do, so that could put a strain on a person of color, or not having enough money to take care of themselves. That line has to be taken care of in all communities too. Not just mine."
Singfield hopes businesses are taking precautions to protect their customers, as he said he has done in both of his restaurants, and that they will be responsible as the community continues battling COVID-19.
"I think that the people here want to get out, but there are some people that are moving a little too fast. They're not taking the precautions necessary sometimes. Most of them do, but you have a couple people here that feels like it's not necessary to do. I wish everybody would get on the same page, so we get a handle on this thing. We just have to do what officials have told us to do."
Listen to the rest of this past week’s highlights from Perspective here.
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'Hug Time' inventor, Carly Marinaro, pictured in front of her plastic hug shield she made from PVC pipe, a window insulator kit, and industrial gloves in Rockford, Illinois. - (Courtesy Carly Marinaro) By HALEY YAMADA, ABC News
(ROCKFORD, Ill.) -- While hugging has proven difficult amid social distancing guidelines from the coronavirus pandemic, that didn't stop Carly Marinaro, who created the "Hug Time'' plastic shield, from surprising her 85-year-old grandmother with safe hugs from her and her grandchildren.
Marinaro, from Rockford, Illinois, said it was Mother's Day that motivated her to put together the plastic device as a surprise for her grandmother, Rose Gagnon.
"I am really close with my grandmother and my kids are as well," said Marinaro, who added that she used to see Gagnon close to every day for morning coffee. "When Mother's Day rolled around and she wasn't able to physically be with any of her children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, she was pretty sad."
"We are a family of huggers," said Gagnon. "That's how our family shows love."
Marinaro said she got to googling and searched for long plastic gloves, PVC pipe and a window insulation kit. She spent less than $50 on materials and, with a little help from a local hardware store, assembled the 'Hug Time' in about an hour.
"It was fairly simple and quick," said Marinaro. "I am an artistic person and a very visual person ... I've been making things for years."
Gagnon said she got a call and specific directions from her great-grandchildren to come over for the surprise.
"[They] said, 'Nana, you have to comb your hair and put lipstick on ... we're going to have a video," said Gagnon with a laugh. "When I got there, I was totally shocked. I could not believe what [Marinaro] had done. She knew that I was missing my grandchildren ... I just missed my hugs."
"I knew this was for her, that's why we did it, but I didn't realize it was just as much for the kids and for me," said Marinaro. "We were thinking she needed this, but [we] all needed it."
Neither Marinaro nor Gagnon expected so much local attention from the moment, but felt happy to spread joy during this time.
"It just blows my mind the response that it's gotten and it's done out of love, not anything else," said Gagnon, who is looking forward to a real hug sometime soon. "It's been hard to stay away from my family ... that warm fuzziness in their hearts ... that's what we're after."
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
fstop123/iStockBy ELLA TORRES, ABC NEWS
(NEWARK, N.J.) -- An NFL player has sued United Airlines after he was allegedly sexually assaulted on a flight from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey.
The player, who was not named, was flying home to New Jersey on Feb. 10 when the alleged incident occurred, according to the lawsuit. During the trip, a woman sitting next to him "continued to sexually assault and abuse [him]," the lawsuit states, including by grabbing his penis and groping his thigh.
The woman also stroked her hand across his lap near his genitals, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Aside from the alleged sexual assault, the lawsuit states that the NFL player was wearing a face mask to protect himself from COVID-19, but the woman accused of him of being sick, told him he was "frightening" and ripped off the mask.
United Airlines issued a statement to ABC News, saying, "The safety and well-being of our customers is always our top priority. In this instance, the customer involved was moved to a different seat. Because litigation is now pending, we're unable to provide further comment."
The player, who is black, was "fearful of the perception of being a male victim and the racial stigma of being a young African American male," according to the lawsuit. At one point, he "patiently pleaded" with the woman, who is white, to stop and remove her hand, but she did not, according to the lawsuit.
Another man, who was also not named in the lawsuit and identified only as John Doe 2, was traveling with the player at the time. That man saw the woman groping the player's knees and thighs and alerted a flight attendant, however, no action was taken, according to the lawsuit.
When the woman then allegedly grabbed the player's genitals, the player stood up and said the woman was "touching" him before making his way to the rear of the plane to find a flight attendant.
During that time, the woman moved seats to be closer to John Doe 2 and grabbed his leg and groin area, according to the lawsuit. A flight attendant then came over and asked, "Is this the same lady?" before the woman was moved to another row, the lawsuit states.
The woman, whose identity remains unknown, admitted that she was drinking and had taken pills, according to the lawsuit.
Both men were presented with $150 vouchers, however, lawyers for them say they were not properly protected even after complaining.
The men were "put at unnecessary risk of harm and in many cases suffered and continue to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress including depression, anxiety, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and fear of flying and travel," according to the lawsuit.
"We bring this lawsuit with the hope that it will be one of the last of its kind," the lawyers for the men said in a statement to ABC News. "Our wish would be that in the future no passengers' multiple warnings and complaints to flight attendants, the onboard authority figures, will go unheeded until it's too late and the damage has been done."
They are seeking punitive damages for multiple claims, including sexual assault, sexual battery, battery and negligence.
The defendants in the lawsuit are United Airlines and multiple unnamed flight attendants.
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