Government rests in alleged airline groper trial - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Government rests in alleged airline groper trial

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By DAVID PORTER
Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- A New Jersey man accused of groping a woman on a cross-country flight told the court in his sex abuse trial Wednesday that he has decided not to testify in his defense.

Federal prosecutors rested their case against Bawer Aksal, after which he notified the judge of his decision. Aksal has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact. He's accused of abusing a fellow passenger on a United Airlines flight in August from Phoenix to Newark.

Aksal, a Turkish-born U.S. citizen, has denied through his attorney that he harmed the woman, whom he said he did not know. Conviction on the charges carries a statutory maximum penalty of life in prison.

In presenting their case, prosecutors showed jurors a statement Aksal made to FBI agents after he was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport last year. In it, he claimed the alleged victim made suggestive comments to him and initiated contact between the two by taking his hands and putting them in her blouse and down her panties.

The woman, who testified earlier in the trial under an alias because of the nature of the charges, told jurors she awoke from sleep to find Aksal reaching around from behind her to fondle her breasts and sticking his other hand down her panties and penetrating her with his fingers. She testified she immediately pushed him away and got up to notify flight attendants.

On Wednesday, a DNA expert from the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., testified that tests were done on several articles of clothing belonging to Aksal and the woman as well as swabs taken of Aksal's hands and fingernails.

Jocelyn Carlson said Aksal's DNA wasn't found on the women's panties and her DNA wasn't found under his fingernails. She said his DNA couldn't be excluded from the woman's shorts and the sample could have been left by a large enough segment of the population to make it statistically insignificant.

Also Wednesday, a friend of the alleged victim testified she met the woman, who is middle-aged and works in corporate finance, at the airport after the woman was questioned by authorities and she looked "terrible."

Defense attorney Robert DeGroot is expected to call one of the flight attendants on the United flight to testify Thursday. The trial, which began last Wednesday could reach closing arguments by the end of this week or early next week.

The case is in federal court because alleged violations on flights fall within the jurisdiction of federal authorities.

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