NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A North Bergen, N.J. man convicted of sexually abusing a sleeping woman on a cross-country flight filed this weekend to have his conviction thrown out.
An attorney for Bawer Aksal filed a 20-page brief in federal court on Saturday.
Aksal, a Turkish-born American citizen from North Bergen, was convicted in July of sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison when he is sentenced in early December.
Aksal and his victim both shed tears in court as the verdict was read.
On Aug. 20, 2012, Aksal reached inside of the shirt and shorts of a 50-year-old woman who was asleep next to him on a United Airlines flight, a jury found.
The woman said that Aksal “digitally penetrated” her during the flight, according to The Jersey Journal. She testified that after she fell asleep, she awoke to find Aksal’s hand on her breast and his other hand in her shorts, penetrating her with his fingers.
According to the FBI complaint, Aksal, who was breathing heavy whispered to the victim “Kiss me.”
Prosecutors said the alarmed woman told Aksal to get off of her and slammed down the armrest. She then told a member of the flight crew what happened. The victim’s story was backed up by the passenger sitting on the other side of Aksal, who was isolated on the plane after the alleged incident and arrested as soon as the flight landed.
In his appeal, Aksal claims that the woman’s account of the incident contains inconsistencies and that the alleged assault couldn’t have happened the way she described it.
He also claims the woman lied when asked about a text to an FBI agent that said she’d testify if the agent helped her son with a criminal matter. The woman testified her son wrote the text.
“A rational fact finder could not have concluded that evidence existed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant committed the acts of sexual contact and sexual abuse,” attorney Robert DeGroot wrote in the motion to set aside Aksal’s conviction.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not filed a response to the brief and a spokesman for the office didn’t return an email Sunday.
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