NEWARK—A North Bergen, New Jersey man is due in federal court today after being charged for allegedly sexually abusing a sleeping woman aboard a flight from Phoenix to Newark Liberty International Airport, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Bawer Aksal, 48, was detained upon arrival in Newark early yesterday, August 21, 2012, and arrested by agents of the FBI. He has been charged by complaint with sexual abuse and is scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk in Newark federal court.
According to the complaint filed late yesterday:
Aksal was seated next to a woman who occupied a window seat on a United Airlines flight from Phoenix to Newark. While the plane was in the air, the woman—who did not know Aksal—fell asleep with a jacket across her legs. She awoke to find Aksal’s hands inside her shirt and shorts as he asked her to kiss him.
After demanding Aksal get off her and slamming down the armrest, the woman walked to the back of the plane and told a flight crew member what had happened.
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.
If convicted of the sexual abuse charge, Aksal faces a maximum potential penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; and the Port Authority Police Department, under the direction of Superintendent Michael Fedorko, with the investigation leading to the charge.
The government is represented by Danielle Alfonzo Walsman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office General Crimes Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.