By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Alleged Riverside Park rapist Hugues-Denver Akassy has a history of arrests in former hometown Washington D.C., but people he knew there said they were unaware of his run-ins with the law and were surprised by the charges against him.
Police arrested Akassy, 42, who claims to be a French television journalist, a week ago in connection with an alleged rape of a Russian tourist near the Boat Basin in Riverside Park. He is being held on $100,000 bail.
Court records show Akassy, who had several unpleasant run-ins with Upper West Side women according to criminal complaints filed in Manhattan, had several prior arrests in Washington, D.C., including a 1995 charge for assault on a police officer. Prosecutors did not pursue that case, according to court records.
Akassy was also charged with assault with a deadly weapon in D.C. in 1995. Defense attorney Elita Amato represented Akassy in that case, which she remembered involved a scuffle at the Senegalese embassy in Washington. The case was dismissed a few weeks after Akassy's arrest.
People in the D.C. area, including his former lawyer Amato, said the Akassy they knew was a friendly, well-liked man.
"He's charming, he has class, he dresses well, he speaks well. He seemed to be a normal person," Amato said. "It didn't seem like there was a pattern of agressive behavior."
Amato remembered Akassy as a well-educated journalist who spoke with a heavy French accent and came to the U.S. to work on political stories. She said she once attended a party at his apartment.
Akassy lived in one of Washington, D.C.'s most exclusive neighborhoods, Kalorama, an enclave of multi-million dollar houses and embassies that was once home to the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.
Akassy rented an apartment in the neighborhood several years ago, said David Akers, a tenant in the building where Akassy once lived.
Akers said Akassy made a positive impression during chats in the elevator, and desribed him as well-dressed and personable.
"He was good-looking and presented himself with a certain charisma and charm," Akers recalled.
Akers said he knew little of Akassy's personal life. He said Akassy told him he worked in the news business and was associated with a West African broadcast company.
"He was very friendly and talked easily and went out of his way to be nice," Akers said.
Despite the fancy address, public records show Akassy was sued by three different real estate companies in the Washington, D.C. area for nonpayment of rent.
Two days before Akassy was arrested in connection with the alleged Riverside Park rape, he was spotted lurking on a fire escape outside a West 75th Street woman's apartment. He told police he was homeless and sleeps on the roof of the West 75th Street building, according to a criminal complaint.
Akassy is due to appear before a grand jury on Thursday on the rape charges.