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New Jersey man faces life in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing sleeping woman on plane

By Mason White 9:38 AM July 22, 2013
Bawer Aksal 

By: Ryan Lee Hall
A man was arrested, charged and convicted of sexual abuse related charges after he sexually abused a sleeping woman on a plane, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey said in a statement.

Bawer Aksal, 49, of North Bergen, New Jersey, was convicted of one count of sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact after a five-day trial in federal court. The jury in Newark, deliberated seven hours before returning a guilty verdict, according to the federal prosecutor’s office.

Aksal was arrested in August 2012 when he arrived on a flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. According to the statement, Aksal was sitting in the middle seat in a row of three seats, while the victim was sitting next to him in the window seat.

The incident took place about an hour before landing, when another passenger Aksal in the seat of the victim, his body against the victim. The passenger also saw his left hand under the woman’s sweater that was draped over her.

The victim awoke to find Aksal’s hands underneath her shirt and shorts, and fought him off, prosecutors said in a statement.
Both the passenger and the victim immediately went to the back of the plane to report what happened to the flight attendants.
The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over all sexual abuse cases that occur on flights in the United States, as such events are outside the jurisdiction of any State.

Aksal now faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.
“Aksal is very disappointed,” Aksal’s attorney, Robert J. Degroot, said. “I felt that prosecutors failed to provide evidence needed for a conviction. He has faith in the U.S. system and feels that he will ultimately be vindicated,” the attorney also said.

Aksal is scheduled to be sentenced in court later this year.