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Press Release

Hudson County, N.J., Man Convicted Of Sexually Abusing Sleeping Woman On Domestic Flight

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A Hudson County, N.J., man was convicted by a federal jury today of sexually abusing a sleeping woman aboard a flight from Phoenix to Newark Liberty International Airport last summer, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Bawer Aksal, 49, of North Bergen, N.J., was convicted of one count of sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact following a five-day trial before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court. The jury deliberated seven hours before returning its guilty verdicts.

According to documents filed in this case and the evidence presented at trial:

Aksal was a passenger on a United Airlines flight from Phoenix to Newark on August 20, 2012. He was sitting in the middle seat in a row of three seats. Neither Aksal, the victim, who was seated in the window seat, nor the passenger in the aisle seat knew each other. Before take-off, the victim texted a friend complaining about Aksal’s arm encroaching into her seating area.

About one hour before landing, the aisle passenger looked to his right and saw Aksal half into the victim’s seat, with his body against the victim’s, his right arm around the back of her and his left hand beneath a sweater that was draped over her. The victim awoke to find Aksal’s hands inside her shirt and shorts and struggled out of his grasp. The aisle passenger observed her jolting awake. The aisle passenger and the victim both gathered their belongings and headed to the back of the plane to report what happened to the flight attendants.

Aksal was detained upon arrival in Newark and arrested by agents of the FBI. He now faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing before Judge Linares is scheduled for Oct. 23, 2013.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, and the Port Authority Police Department, under the direction of Superintendent Michael Fedorko, with the investigation leading to today’s conviction.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Danielle Alfonzo Walsman and Robert Frazer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over all sexual abuse cases that occur in American airplanes, as such events are outside the jurisdiction of any state.


Defense counsel: Robert J. Degroot Esq., Newark

Updated March 18, 2015