Bawer Aksal appeals conviction for sex abuse of sleeping woman on Phoenix-to-Newark flight

NEWARK, N.J. - A northern New Jersey man convicted of sexually abusing a sleeping woman on a cross-country flight has filed to have his conviction thrown out.

Bawer Aksal's attorney 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's sentenced in early December.

At trial, the woman, who used an alias in court to protect her identity due to the nature of the charges, testified that Aksal groped her while on a Phoenix-to-Newark flight on United Airlines in August 2012. 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.

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 hasn't filed a response to the brief and a spokesman for the office didn't return an email Sunday.a

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