October 23, 2018 / 6:35 PM / a year ago

Southwest passenger invokes Trump after groping charge

(Reuters) - A man charged with groping a woman aboard a plane, who after being arrested cited U.S. President Donald Trump’s past statements about women, appeared in federal court in New Mexico on Tuesday.

Bruce Alexander, 49, was arrested after a woman on Sunday accused him of twice grabbing her breast as they were seated on a Southwest Airlines flight from Houston to Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

Alexander, a heavy equipment operator from Tampa, Florida, later told authorities: “The president of the United States said it’s OK to grab women by their private parts,” according to the court document.

The White House had no immediate comment on Alexander’s statement.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, a videotape surfaced of then-candidate Trump bragging about groping women.

After it aired, Trump said in a video, “I said it, I was wrong and I apologize.”

A U.S. magistrate court in Albuquerque found probable cause to support the charge, but Alexander did not enter a plea pending a formal indictment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico said in an email.

The court denied a prosecution motion to detain Alexander and released him to a halfway house.

Alexander’s court-appointed lawyer Monnica Barreras did not respond to a request for comment.

Alexander faces up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of abusive sexual contact, according to the criminal complaint.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Bill Tarrant

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