Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Jersey man indicted for alleged sexual abuse of woman on Newark-bound flight

Bail was set at $100,000 for Bawer Aksal.
A North Bergen man was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday on a charge that he sexually abused a passenger while she slept on a cross-country flight to Newark Liberty International Airport last month.

Bawer Aksal, 48, was indicted the same day that a federal judge set his bail at $100,000. But he will remain in the Essex County Jail while his attorney prepares a bail package for the court explaining how Aksal plans to secure bail — by way of property, cash or a bail bond company.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Harris had asked that Aksal be held without bail because his three passports — one from his native Turkey and two issued by the United States under the names Bawer Aksal and Jonathan Aksal — indicated that he was a flight risk.

“I think what’s appropriate is some kind of bond where the family has said we’ll put up our money to convince you he’s not a flight risk,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo said during a hearing in federal court in Newark on Thursday.

Arleo also set conditions on the bail if Aksal is freed. He must be confined to his home with electronic monitoring, surrender any passports and not travel out of the state, she said.

Aksal was arrested by FBI agents last week and was charged with sexually abusing a woman who was seated next to him on a flight to Newark from Phoenix on Aug. 20.

The woman told authorities she awoke in her seat to find Aksal groping one of her breasts under her shirt with one hand, and his other hand in her shorts. She told him to get off her, slammed down the armrest between them and told a flight attendant what had happened, authorities said.

When interviewed later by authorities, Aksal admitted penetrating the woman with his fingers but said she forced his hand, investigators said. Aksal’s lawyer, Robert DeGroot said earlier this week that his client denies making that statement to police.

Arleo continued the bail hearing from Tuesday because she wanted more information about Aksal’s U.S. and Turkish passports.

Harris, the assistant U.S. attorney, objected to his release, arguing that he initially failed to disclose to authorities his extent of his travel and that he owned a Turkish passport. They also said Aksal used different names for the passports. Prosecutors have maintained Aksal is a flight risk with strong ties to Turkey.

DeGroot has said that Aksal, a Kurd, does not wish to return to Turkey, which he fled to escape an oppressive government. He also said the passports listed different first names because he hanged his name to Jonathan and then resumed using Bawer, and that his actions were not underhanded.

“I have no evidence before me that he obtained either [passport] fraudulently or was using an old passport when he shouldn’t have,” the judge said. “But I’m concerned about the risk of flight to the extent he has nothing holding him here. He has no money here, no job here and no home with equity here.”

Aksal owns properties in North Bergen and Florida, but he appears to owe more on those properties than they are worth, the prosecutor has said.

DeGroot said he would begin working on the bail package, which he hopes to present to the court by next week.


No comments:

Post a Comment