Flight attendant indicted in attempt to record teen girl in airplane bathroom

By AP   April 26, 2024 | 07:45 pm PT
Flight attendant indicted in attempt to record teen girl in airplane bathroom
An aircraft from American Airlines. Photo from American Airlines' Instagram
An American Airlines flight attendant was indicted Thursday after authorities said he tried to secretly record video of a 14-year-old girl using an airplane bathroom last September.

Police have also alleged that Estes Carter Thompson III, 36, of Charlotte, North Carolina, had recordings of four other girls using lavatories on an aircraft where he worked.

Thompson was indicted on one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of images of child sexual abuse depicting a prepubescent minor.

Thompson was charged and arrested in January 2024 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He has been in federal custody since. A lawyer for Thompson said after the indictment by a federal grand jury that he was unable to comment.

Investigators said that about midway through a Sept. 2, 2023, flight from Charlotte to Boston, the 14-year-old got up to use the main cabin lavatory nearest to her seat but found it was occupied.

Thompson then told her the first-class lavatory was unoccupied and escorted her there, investigators said. Before she entered the bathroom, Thompson allegedly told her he needed to wash his hands and that the toilet seat was broken, they said.

After he left, the teen entered the bathroom and she saw red stickers on the underside of the toilet seat lid, which was in the open position, officials said.

Beneath the stickers, Thompson had concealed his iPhone to record a video, investigators said. The girl used her phone to take a picture of the stickers and concealed iPhone before leaving.

Prosecutors also allege hundreds of images of child sexual abuse generated through artificial intelligence were found stored on Thompson’s iCloud account.

Attempted sexual exploitation of children carries a sentence of 15-30 years in prison, while possessing images of sexual abuse of a prepubescent minor can mean up to 20 years in prison.

Both charges also provide for at least five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution.

American Airlines previously issued a statement saying the flight attendant was "immediately withheld from service" and hasn’t worked since the phone was discovered.

A search of Thompson’s iCloud account revealed four additional instances between January and August 2023 in which Thompson recorded a minor using the lavatory on an aircraft, according to investigators.

Those depicted in the recordings were 7, 9, 11 and 14 years old at the time, they said. Their families have been contacted by police, investigators said.

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