North Carolina man who punched passenger on Portland-bound flight sentenced to a year in prison

A North Carolina man was sentenced to one year in federal prison Monday for punching another passenger in the face in an unprovoked assault aboard a Portland-bound flight from Denver in August 2019.

The man assaulted was on his honeymoon, according to prosecutors.

Yuriy Poplauskiy, 40, of Charlotte, N.C., pleaded guilty to assault on board an aircraft moments before U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman sentenced him in federal court in Portland.

Poplauskiy had demonstrated unusual behavior before boarding the flight when he sat next to a woman, asked her for drugs and then said something about not taking his medication and being concerned about sitting on that “(expletive) plane,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas S. Ratcliffe.

Once on the plane, he was constantly moving around in his aisle seat, swearing and used his belt as a tourniquet on his right thigh, Ratcliffe wrote in a sentencing memo. At one point, the passenger fell asleep on the woman seated beside him.

When Poplauskiy woke up, he glared through a gap between his seat and the one next to him at a man seated directly behind him, who was watching a show on Netflix on his cellphone, according to Ratcliffe.

Poplauskiy mumbled something, stood up and suddenly “delivered a loose-fisted jab” to the man’s left jaw, Ratcliffe’s memo said.

Poplauskiy then ran to the bathroom at the back of the plane, according to the prosecutor.

The victim reported the punch to a flight attendant, who determined there wasn’t enough time to separate the two men before the plane landed. Back in his seat, Poplauskiy then got into a verbal dispute with another man seated across the aisle from him, Ratcliffe wrote.

When a male flight attendant walked down the aisle to collect trash before the plane landed, Poplauskiy grabbed the attendant’s genitals and said “trash,” Ratclifffe wrote in the sentencing memo. The flight attendant , according to the memo, was startled and responded, “Excuse me!”

Police boarded the plane once it landed and had to escort Poplauskiy off of it, according to the prosecutor.

While on pretrial release before his sentencing, Poplauskiy left his residential treatment programs three times and faced new charges from subsequent criminal allegations of drug possession in Portland in 2020 and eluding arrest in a vehicle in North Carolina in December, Ratcliffe wrote. He was sentenced in January 2020 to one year of probation in Multnomah County Circuit Court for possession of methamphetamine.

Poplauskiy’s defense lawyer Assistant Federal Public Defender Susan Russell wrote to the judge that her client believed he was the subject of taunting and harassment by other passengers “because of his accent,” according to court records. She argued for a sentence of time served, or 170 days, plus one year of supervision.

In response to the defense lawyer’s memo to the court, the FBI re-interviewed other passengers on the flight, who all corroborated that “no one on the flight taunted, harassed, threw anything at” Poplauskiy, Ratcliffe told the court.

The FBI, along with Port of Portland and Portland police, investigated the case.

— Maxine Bernstein

Email; 503-221-8212

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian  

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