By Katie Reilly
May 14, 2016

A man pleaded guilty to religious obstruction on Friday after pulling off a woman’s hijab on an airplane last year.

Gill Parker Payne, 37, was on a Southwest airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque in December, when he told another passenger—identified only as K.A. by the Justice Department—to remove her hijab, the Washington Post reported.

According a written statement by Payne, he said “Take it off! This is America!” and when the woman didn’t remove the hijab, he pulled it off her head.

“As a result, K.A. felt violated and quickly pulled the hijab back up and covered her head again,” Payne said in a written statement in his plea agreement, filed Friday.

“Because I forcibly removed K.A.’s hijab, I admit that the United States can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I intentionally obstructed K.A.’s free exercise of her religious beliefs,” he wrote.

Payne pleaded guilty to obstruction of a person’s free exercise of religious beliefs. He has not yet been sentenced, but he faces a maximum prison sentence of one year and a fine of $100,000.

Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com.

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