NEW YORK — An Ivory Coast native accused of pretending to be a French-language TV journalist was convicted Monday of raping one woman and harassing three others, but was acquitted of a fifth sexual attack.
Hugues-Denver Akassy had said the sexual encounters were consensual and the other allegations resulted from misunderstandings.
Prosecutors said Akassy, 43, charmed the women with a debonair demeanor and a phony persona, then became a sexually aggressive stalker. They said Akassy, who was homeless, claimed to be buying a brownstone and held himself out as an accomplished journalist on a website rife with plagiarized praise written about real journalists.
“What we’re talking about here is a person who initiates every relationship in his life with a falsehood,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jessica Troy told jurors in a closing argument last week. “And I submit to you, there is no reason to think he is honest about anything.”
Four women testified; the one who said she was raped did not. Those who testified said Akassy suavely struck up conversations with them on the street and other public places around the city. Some said they then met him for wine-and-cheese picnics in parks and other dates before he became threatening with unwanted advances.
When things soured, he often wrote the women profane and vitriolic emails, which jurors saw during the trial. In some cases, Akassy showed up outside the women’s apartment buildings or at their workplaces, they said.
Akassy testified that the women willingly engaged in the sexual encounters — on a subway grate in a park, in a stairwell of an apartment building. Overall, he and his lawyers said, the accusations were leveled by troubled women who misconstrued and overreacted to his overtures.
“Ladies and gentlemen, misinterpretation seems to be a theme that runs through these cases,” defense lawyer Glenn Hardy said.