A federal jury convicted a northern New Jersey man Friday of sexually abusing a sleeping woman on a cross-country flight last year.
Jurors returned the verdict against 49-year-old Bawer Aksal midway through their second day of deliberations. The Turkish-born American citizen was convicted of sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact for his actions on a flight last August from Phoenix to Newark.
Aksal didn't testify but told authorities after his arrest that the woman made unwanted sexual advances toward him and forced his hands to touch her.
The woman, who testified under an alias because of the nature of the charges, told jurors she awoke from sleep to find Aksal reaching around from behind her to fondle her breasts and sticking his other hand down her underpants and penetrating her with his fingers. She testified she immediately pushed him away and got up to notify flight attendants.
A flight attendant testified that the woman was shaking and crying after the incident, and a man who sat on the aisle seat next to Aksal testified that he saw Aksal in a “spooning” position with the woman with one hand under a sweater on her lap and the other around her shoulders.
DNA samples were taken from Aksal and the woman, but tests at an FBI lab weren't conclusive, an expert testified during the trial.
The trial was held in federal court because crimes that occur on flights fall under federal jurisdiction.
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