Riverside Park Rape Suspect Claims TV Credentials

42-year-old charged with rape, trespass and harassment in a series of incidents over last 18 months

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    He has been accused of raping a Russian tourist in a New York City park, lurking on another woman's fire escape and harassing a third woman when she turned down a date.

    Hugues-Denver Akassy, 42, holds himself out to be an accomplished French-language TV journalist on a website riddled with questionable claims. He faces a burgeoning prosecution in New York, where he's being held on $100,000 bail.

    Having already been charged with rape, trespass and harassment in a series of incidents around Manhattan over the last 18 months, he was indicted this week on charges not yet released.

    His lawyer, Howard D. Simmons, said any sex-crime allegations against Akassy stem from consensual encounters.

    "Mr. Akassy doesn't deny having social interactions with any of these women. However, he vehemently denies ever assaulting or victimizing any of them," Simmons said.

    Manhattan prosecutors say they've gotten dozens of calls expressing complaints and concerns about Akassy since they made an initial request for information about him on July 30. On Friday, they asked Washington, D.C., residents to come forward with any information about him; Washington police and court officials couldn't immediately provide information about him, however.

    Meanwhile, the New York Post's dating columnist aired her own unsettling account of going on a date with Akassy after he approached her in an Apple store in 2007. A stroll in Central Park rapidly disintegrated into unwanted sexual advances, followed by vicious text messages, she said.

    "I shudder at how aggressive he was — and I regret not listening to my internal warning bell," columnist Mandy Stadtmiller wrote.

    On a polished, bilingual website, the Ivory Coast native says he has two decades of experience covering assignments ranging from African wars to Washington politics. He claims to host a "60 Minutes"-style public affairs cable TV program and run a nonprofit production company called Orbite Television Inc.

    But some of the people and organizations listed as producers and sponsors have told newspapers they never worked with him.

    While his website says he lives in Paris and Washington, he told the woman who found him on her fire escape on July 25 that he was homeless and sleeping on the roof of her Upper West Side building, according to a court complaint outlining some of the trespass charges already lodged against him.

    Two days later, he raped a woman in nearby Riverside Park, according to another court complaint. He had met the woman, a visitor from Russia, in the Time Warner Center — a popular shopping destination — and then invited her to a nighttime picnic in the park, complete with wine and flowers, Simmons said.

    Another woman told police that Akassy approached her and chatted her up on an Upper West Side street in February 2009. After she gave him her e-mail address to get rid of him, he e-mailed her asking for a date and became irate when she had her boyfriend write back telling him to leave her alone, according to yet another court complaint charging him with harassment.

    He found her again on the street, yelled and cursed at her, and sent an e-mail calling her "a pathetic, retarded girl ... obnoxious and disgusting," the court document said.

    Simmons said Akassy had been acquitted in that case, although electronic court records show it remains open. Fuller court records weren't immediately available Friday night.

    In November, Akassy was banned from the entire New York Sports Club chain — and then charged with trespass after continuing to turn up at some of the gyms, according to still another court complaint.