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New Jersey man charged with sexually abusing sleeping woman on plane

By Rande Iaboni, CNN
updated 9:34 PM EDT, Thu August 30, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bawer Aksal was detained on August 21 upon his arrival in Newark, New Jersey
  • Woman seated next to him on a flight from Phoenix accused him of abuse
  • Federal government has jurisdiction over sex abuse cases that occur on U.S. flights
  • Bail was set at $100,000 for Aksal, "who remains detained"

New York (CNN) -- A New Jersey man was indicted Thursday for allegedly sexually abusing a woman who was asleep on an airplane, the U.S. District Attorney's Office said.

Bawer Aksal was detained on August 21 upon his arrival in Newark, New Jersey. According to the indictment, he was seated next to a woman in 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," according to a news release from the District Attorney's Office in New Jersey.

The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over all sexual abuse cases that occur on American airplane flights, as such events are outside the jurisdiction of any state. If convicted, Aksal faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine, the news release said.

On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo set bail at $100,000 for Aksal, "who remains detained," according to Matthew Reilly of the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey.

Calls to Aksal's criminal defense lawyer, Robert J. Degroot, were not immediately returned.

An additional hearing will not be scheduled until Aksal settles his bail, Reilly said.

From the archives: Man gets 6 months for sexual assault of airplane passenger

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