NEW YORK – A man who holds himself out to be an accomplished French-language TV reporter faces charges of sexually assaulting, stalking or otherwise bothering six women after prosecutors added to the slate of accusations against him Wednesday.
Some 40 women called with complaints and concerns about Hugues-Denver Akassy after the Manhattan district attorney's office publicly appealed for information about him in July, prosecutors said. They said they were continuing to investigate Akassy, an Ivory Coast native who portrayed himself as a seasoned journalist and public-affairs cable TV program host on an elaborate website that prosecutors said was a sham.
Defense lawyer Howard D. Simmons said Akassy's client's accusers all were women he knew, and any sexual encounters were consensual.
"They were all women who had a prior relationship with my client. They were not strangers" who were abruptly accosted, Simmons told a court Wednesday.
Akassy, 42, is charged with offenses ranging from rape to criminal trespass in dealings with women going back to 2007. Charges involving three women were added Wednesday; charges involving three other women had been unveiled previously, along with a case accusing him of continuing to frequent gyms that had banned him.
The accusations include camping out on one woman's fire escape; berating another woman on the street after she had her boyfriend ask Akassy to leave her alone; and forcing a third woman, a Russian tourist, to have sex with him after inviting her to picnic with him in a park.
Akassy told authorities in a statement released Wednesday that the Russian woman willingly had sex with him — and then told him she was married and had a son who was waiting for her in a hotel room. When he advised her that leaving the child alone could be illegal, "she got upset and left me," the statement said.
Akassy's extensive, bilingual website — now apparently taken down — said he had covered assignments ranging from African wars to Washington politics over two decades, hosted a "60 Minutes"-style cable TV program and ran a nonprofit production company called Orbite Television Inc.
But some of the people and organizations listed as producers and sponsors told newspapers they never worked with him, and assistant district attorney Jessica Troy said Wednesday that all the stories he posted on the site were plagiarized.
Simmons said he didn't "completely agree" with that characterization.
Akassy's status in the U.S. is unclear; prosecutors say he hasn't had a valid visa since 2002, but Simmons contests that. While Akassy's website described him as living in Paris and Washington, D.C., prosecutors said he was homeless and unemployed.
Manhattan prosecutors asked Washington residents last month to come forward with any information about him. Washington police and court officials had no immediate information Wednesday about what, if anything, had resulted.
For now, Akassy is being held without bail in a New York jail, where Simmons said another inmate had beaten Akassy about two weeks ago after reading about his case. Jail officials had no immediate information on that allegation.