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Press Release

Hudson County, N.J., Man Sentenced To More Than Eight Years In Prison For 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 sentenced today to 97 months in prison for sexually abusing a sleeping woman aboard a flight from Phoenix to Newark Liberty International Airport in August 2012, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced. 

Bawer Aksal, 49, of North Bergen, N.J., was previously 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. Judge Linares imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

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 Aug. 20, 2012, sitting in the middle seat in a row of three. Neither Aksal, the victim seated by the window nor the passenger in the aisle seat knew one other. Before the plane took 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 with his body against the victim’s, his arms around her back and beneath a sweater 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 and he 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 FBI agents.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Linares sentenced Aksal to serve three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution to the victim for her medical expenses. Aksal is required to register as a sex offender.

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 A. Fedorko, with the investigation.

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 Degroot Esq., Newark                                                                                                                   

Updated March 18, 2015