An Orthodox rabbi faces up to six months in jail for groping a female Israeli army officer as she slept next to him on a flight from Tel Aviv to JFK at the end of March. Rabbi Gavriel Bidany, a 47-year-old father of 11, was found guilty of molestation today, even though he had claimed that his hands were moving involuntarily while he slept and that any contact with the unidentified 23-year-old woman was accidental. "If these were random reaches of a sleeping man why is it the defendant had such precise accuracy, reaching private areas?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney David Sarratt.

According to the victim, Bidany “placed his hand under her blanket, on her groin, and was groping her genital area.” She recoiled, then put the blanket over her head and body and attempted to go back to sleep. But minutes later, Bidany again “reached under the passenger’s blanket, this time groping the passenger’s breasts.” At this point she yelled at him, “What are you doing, stop touching me!" His reply: "It's a mistake, I'm asleep." She then told flight attendants what had happened, and he was arrested.

Bidany's lawyer still insists, "Nothing happened. He was fast asleep, and a woman next to him started screaming." And Bidany himself testified yesterday, telling the judge he would never "do such nonsense and risk my entire life.” But the judge, Ramon Reyes, said the victim's testimony about the assault was "compelling and wholly believeable" and there was "no question in my mind" about the rabbi's guilt. He remains free on bail until his sentencing May 12th.