Hugues Akassy, 42, a homeless, smooth-talking con man who had portrayed himself as a French journalist, went on trial in New York City on Thursday (October 21), accused of raping and sexual abusing a Russian tourist, 43, in Riverside Park, after he lured her there for a picnic.
The Russian woman told police that she met Akassy while shopping at the Time Warner Center. The man initiated a conversation with her, complimented her on her looks and asked if she'd meet him later. Akassy gave the woman his e-mail address and phone number; she arranged to meet him two days later at Riverside Park. As promised, he'd prepared a picnic, which they ate near the 79th Street Boat Basin. Later that evening, Akassy told her he wanted to take her to an area of the park with a scenic city view, whereby he forced himself upon her. After the attack, the victim ran to the edge of the park, where a group of men sitting on a bench helped her call police.
Additionally, Akassey has also been accused of preying on as many as ten other women. "He would take whatever he felt he was entitled to, no matter if he had to violate another person to get it," said prosecutor Jessica Troy.
COMMENT: Akassy was arrested following his July 2010 encounter with the 43-year-old Russian woman, who had been in the city less than a week. Prosecutors said Akassy told the woman he was a globe-trotting French journalist and that the woman went on a date with him in the Riverside Park. Subsequently, he raped the woman after she rejected him. The alleged victim ran from the scene barefooted.
Although the Russian victim has returned to her country due to an injury, jurors nevertheless will hear from several other women who have accused the Akassy of stalking them to their homes and workplaces. Among his accusers are women who worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a Central Park West gallery.
As an officer of the court, defense attorney Howard Simmons representing Akassy told the court that an active duty assistant district attorney also was sexually abused by Akassy. Additionally, he is also charged with forcing a woman to perform a sex act after he unsuccessfully tried to kiss her.
Visitors to the US or any country for that matter that is not home, are urged to be cautious in interacting with new acquaintances, particularly when they suggest isolated, out-of-the way places. Although most countries are very friendly and helpful toward foreign visitors, women in particularly should be exceptionally careful, particularly when they have not validated the bona fides of new friends. It is best to meet new people ONLY in public places, where help is always available nearby. For travelers that have mobile phones, the local police emergency number should also be placed in the phone's speed-dialer.
Riverside Park is Manhattan's most spectacular waterfront park, stretching four miles from 72nd to 158th Streets along the Hudson River. Since 1875, the landscapes of Frederick Law Olmsted have offered escape from the city and opportunities for people of all incomes to relax, play and socialize in tranquil settings. His design for Riverside Drive made it is one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world, affording views of the Hudson River along its serpentine route.