Bawer Aksal, 48, a Turkish national with U.S. citizenship who lives in North Bergen, was arrested on Tuesday after an unidentified woman claimed he groped her breasts and genitals as she was sleeping next to him on a plane from Phoenix to Newark. To add to the creepiness, the woman says she woke up to Aksal leaning over her whispering, “Kiss me.”
Aksal was seated next to the woman who had the window seat; the two didn’t know each other. The woman fell asleep with a jacket across her legs; when she woke up, Aksal allegedly had one hand in her shorts and another in her shirt, and whispered “Kiss me.” The woman got up immediately, and told a flight attendant at the back of the plane what happened.
The woman, whose name is being withheld by prosecutors because of the nature of the charges, told authorities she woke up to find the man had one of his hands inside her shirt touching her breasts and the other in her shorts molesting her, according to the complaint.
The woman demanded the man get off her, according to the complaint, slammed down the armrest between them and reported the incident to flight personnel.
A passenger in the aisle seat, noticing the commotion, offered to help the woman, prosecutors said, and accompanied her to the back of the plane to alert the flight crew. The aisle passenger later told authorities that he had seen the woman, who appeared to be asleep and not moving, and saw the man’s arm under a jacket the woman had draped across her legs.
Aksal was detained on board and was taken into custody by federal authorities at Newark Liberty International Airport, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office said. He admitted to law enforcement officers in Newark that he had touched the woman but insisted she had forced his hand into her shorts, prosecutors said.
US Magistrate Judge Mark Falk, who presided over the case Wednesday in Newark federal court, said he wanted to hold a more detailed hearing before setting bail for Aksal.
Aksal, who had close-cropped gray hair and wore a T-shirt and jeans while cuffed at the wrists and ankles, did not speak during his first court appearance. He was assigned a court-appointed attorney.
The sex abuse charge carries a potential sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.
Aksal admitted to police he touched the woman, but said it was consensual—according to NBC, he claimed she forced his hand into her lap.