A federal judge today set bail at $100,000, with conditions, for a North Bergen man charged with sexually assaulting a woman on a Newark-bound flight. An indictment was handed up this morning by a grand jury, following an original FBI complaint filed last week against Bawer Aksal.
As CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported exclusively, Aksal is a 48-year-old Turkish national who runs a hotel services company that includes the St. Regis Hotel in New York and El Mexicano restaurant in Paterson among its affiliations.
Federal prosecutors have accused him of an “egregious act in a commercial airliner with over 100 potential witnesses.”
But Aksal’s defense lawyer says the ethnic Kurd disputes the facts and insists the physical play between the two aboard a flight from Phoenix to Newark Liberty International Airport was consensual.
In setting bail today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo ordered that Aksal have a custodian, that he leave his house only in emergencies or approved travel — but only in New Jersey — and that he be electronically monitored.
His attorney said he should have a bail package ready by the end of next week. Meantime, Aksal remains in federal custody.
According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, Aksal was seated in the middle seat next to a woman in a window seat on the United Airlines flight. While the plane was in the air, the woman – who did not know Aksal – fell asleep with a jacket across her legs.
She later told federal agents that she awoke to find his fingers inside her vagina and anus, it says.
The complaint says Aksal, “who was breathing heavy,” whispered: “Kiss me.”
After demanding Aksal get off her and slamming down the armrest, the woman went to
the back of the plane and told a flight crew member what had happened, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.
Aksal, meanwhile, “removed his hands, sat back in his seat and closed his eyes,” according to the FBI complaint.
The flight landed around midnight yesterday, and federal agents immediately interviewed the aisle passenger, who told them he saw Aksal’s arm under the woman’s jacket.
(NOTE: The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over all sexual abuse cases that occur on American airplanes, as such events are outside the jurisdiction of any state.)
Aksal was read his rights and, during an interview, “admitted to, among other things, penetrating the Victim’s vaginal opening with his fingers but claimed the Victim forced his hand into her vagina,” their complaint says.
Aksal, who maintains a headquarters for his business in Turkey and a North Bergen location out of his home on 79th Street, claims more than 20 years of experience providing consulting services for seeral hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
He describes himself as an “acomplished entrepreneur” and “graduate of CUNY in International Business and Hotel Management.”
He offers name and logo creation, branding packages, help with business plans, procedures for lowering operating costs and increasing profits, staff training and website design, among other services, with “hourly, daily, weekly rates.”