Katherine Goldberg, a teacher from Ealing, west London, who groped a Virgin Atlantic steward and demanded sex while drunk on the plane, has avoided a jail sentence today.
Katherine Goldberg, 25, drank around a pint of whisky on board before apparently grabbing the cabin crew member’s crotch.
In mitigation, Isleworth Crown Court was told that South African-born Katherine Goldberg was convinced that the man was her boyfriend as a result of her “alcohol-induced illusion”.
Katherine Goldberg, who pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to sexual assault and being drunk on an aircraft, was on board a night flight from Johannesburg to Heathrow on August 24 at the time of the episode.
But a judge today said he did not want to impose a “lifetime punishment” on the teacher, who had been working at her mother Debbie’s Montessori nursery, St Michael’s, Barnes, South-West London.
The teacher has been suspended since the sex assault and her lawyers claimed she was liable to be struck off if she was jailed or placed on the sex offenders’ register.
The court heard Katherine Goldberg had downed “at least 50 centilitres of whisky” when the incident took place.
Prosecutor James O’Connell said at first the techer’s behaviour on the flight was described by witnesses as “very irritating” because she disturbed them while they were trying to rest.
Katherine Goldberg was eventually moved to the plane’s galley where one member of the cabin crew “took an interest in her care” and tried to calm her down.
James O’Connell went on: “However, it was at this point that the defendant’s antics changed and became rather sexual.
“She sat on his lap and grabbed hold of his genitalia through his trousers.”
Katherine Goldberg also spoke to the man suggestively and kept “making offers to him”, the court heard.
The woman was heard to tell the air steward: “Let me and you go somewhere. You can touch me anywhere you want, I don’t mind.”
James O’Connell said Katherine Goldberg was also heard to say the names of two men.
The prosecutor added: “In her complete alcoholic funk she was confusing him with her current boyfriend, Clayton, and Owen, a previous boyfriend.
“She was somehow imagining this was her boyfriend with whom she was interacting.”
Katherine Goldberg eventually went to sleep for around an hour but then woke up and continued to be loud and disruptive, the court was told.
Eventually the woman slept again, and remained asleep until the plane landed at Heathrow and she was met by police.
James O’Connell said she was “very co-operative” with the officers who questioned her, and admitted she had no recollection of events on board the plane but was very apologetic.
The total amount that Katherine Goldberg had drunk was not mentioned in court but it was believed she consumed her own alcohol that she had taken on board, rather than that supplied by cabin crew.
The air steward Katherine Goldberg sexually assaulted, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was said to have been unaffected by the incident.
The court was told that Katherine Goldberg has since admitted to having an alcohol problem and now attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings five times a week.
She also went on a one-month residential course after realizing she had hit “rock bottom”.
Katherine Goldberg was fined £1,500 ($2,300), ordered to carry out an 11-month community order and 80 hours of unpaid work, and to pay £250 ($380) costs.