Akins found guilty of assault, kidnapping

JOHNSTOWN — Delaney Akins was found guilty on Friday in a Fulton County Court trial on four counts of the indictment he faced for kidnapping and assaulting a Gloversville man last August. An additional count included in the indictment of second-degree assault was not ruled on by the jury of 12 that was instructed only to consider that charge in the event they found Akins not guilty of a more serious first-degree assault charge against him.

Akins, 27, of 260 W. 131st St., Manhattan, was charged with first-degree kidnapping, a felony; two counts of first-degree assault, violent felonies; second-degree assault, a violent felony; and third-degree aggravated sexual abuse, a violent felony, following a grand jury indictment handed up in Fulton County Court on Nov. 16.

Akins was arrested at 15 James St. on Aug. 21 when he was located there by officers executing a search warrant at the building after a severely injured man was located by Gloversville police wandering on Kingsboro Avenue earlier that day wearing only boxer shorts, a T-shirt and a towel on his head.

The man told police he had been kidnapped on Aug. 15 and assaulted at the James Street address. He said he continued to be confined at the building until he found an opportunity to leave on Aug. 21 while the building occupants slept off a night of partying. The victim of the assault provided this account and identified Akins as his assailant during the first day of the trial against Akins on Tuesday.

Due to the nature of the crime, The Leader-Herald is withholding the victim’s name.

The victim said he was lured to the basement of 15 James St. by Akins who accused him of stealing 20 bundles of heroin Akins had hidden there. The man said Akins struck him on the back of his head with a metal object after drawing him down to the basement to look for the missing drugs.

The victim said Akins then dragged him further into the basement while he was disoriented, tying him up by his hands and feet before he hit, punched, kicked, stomped and struck the victim with various objects in the basement used to store tools and construction materials. When he fell unconscious, the victim said Akins woke him by burning him with a butane torch, lit cigarettes and by pouring rubbing alcohol on his body before lighting it on fire.

The victim was discovered by a resident of the James Street building on Aug. 17 who set about to free the man before Akins intervened, saying he could not leave the building. The victim was untied and taken to another area of the three-story apartment building where Akins told him he had to remain.

The victim continued to be confined to a room in the apartment building until Akins and the residents of the building threw a party one night. The victim was able to escape the following morning on Aug. 21 while they were sleeping, encountering police while making his way toward Nathan Littauer Hospital.

Akins’ attorney Kyle Davis attempted to cast doubt over this account while presenting his summation of the case on Friday before Fulton County Court Judge Polly Hoye.

In his closing argument, Davis told the jury that Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his client had tied up and assaulted the victim in the basement of 15 James St. on Aug. 15 or that he continued to hold the man in the building against his will until Aug. 21 after the homeowner, Anthony Mongato, discovered and untied the man on the morning of Aug. 17.

“He had multiple opportunities to leave,” Davis said. “There was no one guarding the doors.”

Davis acknowledged that at some point the victim was restrained and assaulted in the basement of the building, but argued that the victim remained at the building voluntarily after he was freed.

“He’s beat up, but he’s doing what he usually does when he flops at 15 James St.,” Davis said questioning the victim’s credibility. “Everybody that testified labeled 15 James St. as a well-known drug house.”

Davis noted that in their testimony, residents of the building, Mongato, Nicole Lake and Steve Miller, agreed that illegal drugs were commonly used at 15 James St. where people frequently stayed after “partying.” The victim also acknowledged in his testimony that he was a drug user in the past, but said he had not used drugs after the incident last August and entered rehab earlier this year to get off the painkillers he was prescribed as a result of the injuries he suffered.

Davis cited the frequent presence of drug users in the building in arguing that someone other than his client could have committed the assault. He further pointed to the more than 100 pieces of evidence collected in the basement and other areas of the building by investigators that had DNA evidence shown to have come from multiple individuals, but was present in insufficient quantities to be used for positive identification.

“There were people constantly coming and going,” Davis said. “Clearly there were numerous people down in that basement.”

Of the collected evidence, Davis noted that his client’s DNA was only positively identified on two items collected from the basement.

“The only thing Mr. Brown is relying on is two cigarettes,” Davis said.

“It’s up to you to decide who did this,” Davis continued. “There is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Delaney Akins did this.”

During his summation, Brown asked jurors to set aside the “baseless speculation” presented by Davis and to reconsider the testimony and evidence presented by police that he said corroborated the victim’s story.

“He told you where this happened and who did it,” Brown said.

Brown displayed images of the red stained pieces of rope, duct tape, cutting from a mattress and pieces of PVC pipe collected by state police investigators from the basement of 15 James St. and positively determined by state police forensic scientists to bear the victim’s DNA.

“It’s [the victim’s] blood ladies and gentleman,” Brown said of what is referred to by police as “red staining.”

Brown reminded jurors that the victim’s DNA was positively identified on a red stained roll of duct tape and a red stained sneaker collected from a first floor room at 15 James St. where witnesses in this week’s trial said Akins was staying. The victim’s DNA was also identified on a metal wrench found near a doorway that led to the basement stairs, an item the victim said he was assaulted with during his testimony.

“It’s hard to put into words how disturbing what happened here is,” Brown said.

Brown went on to argue against Davis’ suggestion that the victim could have left the building after he was untied.

“To assert he could have left is not consistent with the reasons Nicole [Lake] and Steve [Miller] said they were afraid of helping [the victim],” Brown said.

Inaction by the building occupants and Akins placed the victim in grave risk of death, Brown argued, citing testimony from Dr. Michael DiVella, an emergency room physician on duty at Nathan Littauer Hospital when the victim was admitted on Aug. 21, and the victim’s primary care provider, Nathan Littauer Hospital Physician Assistant Nicole Higgins.

DiVella and Higgins detailed the multiple injuries the victim sustained in August some of which he continues to be effected by. The victim suffered burns, bruises, lacerations, broken ribs, a broken back, lung contusion, multiple broken bones in his face and a broken jaw.

The victim had previously suffered a broken jaw that required surgery and DiVella said hardware in the victim’s jaw was broken during the assault which would have required “tremendous force.” The victim underwent total facial reconstruction after the incident, but said he still suffers pain and swelling in his jaw and has reduced bite force.

Both DiVella and Higgins said the most serious injury the victim suffered, a lung contusion as a result of the broken ribs, could have led to the man’s death, something Brown argued Akins was willing to see happen.

“He didn’t care as long as he didn’t get in trouble,” Brown said. “He beat [the victim] sadistically.”

Brown displayed pictures of the victim taken at Nathan Littauer Hospital on Aug. 21, pointing out the apparent shape of a shoe in the bruising on the victim’s face and rib cage where Brown argued Akins stomped on the victim while wearing the sneaker the man’s DNA was identified on. He also showed the jury marks on the victim’s back he said were consistent with the man’s statement that Akins poured rubbing alcohol on him and lit it on fire.

“[Akins] committed multiple atrocities,” Brown said. “Evil, heinous and despicable acts.”

“[The victim] never said anyone else assaulted him,” Brown concluded to the jury. “I’m asking you to return the only verdicts that are consistent with the evidence.”

Following the summations, Hoye detailed the charges against Akins and released the jury to begin deliberations around noon.

The jury returned to the courtroom at approximately 1:45 p.m. to deliver their verdict, finding Akins guilty of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree assault evincing a depraved indifference to human life, first-degree assault with intent to cause serious physical injury with the use of a dangerous instrument and third-degree aggravated sexual abuse.

The jury was instructed by Hoye not to consider the charge of second-degree assault if they found Akins guilty of the second of the first-degree assault charges.

After the verdict was delivered, Hoye thanked the jury of 12 for their attentiveness, promptness and hard work throughout the week before dismissing them.

Hoye then stated for the record that a presentence investigation will be ordered to be completed before Akins is sentenced on July 25 at 9:30 a.m. Akins was then led out of the courtroom by officers from the Fulton County Correctional Facility where he has been incarcerated since August.

In July Akins will face a minimum sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment and a maximum sentence of 25 years to life on the most serious charge he was convicted on, first-degree kidnapping, a class A felony.

Following the conclusion of the trial on Friday, Brown offered his appreciation to the investigating law enforcement agencies that contributed to the successful prosecution including the Gloversville Police Department and multiple branches of the state police.

“We had an overwhelming amount of evidence, the police did a good job,” Brown said.

“I’m very happy with the verdict and I think the jury did a good job,” he continued. “I think the victim will be very happy with the outcome.”