FULTON & SARATOGA COUNTIES – Under continued questioning by his own attorney, murder defendant Georgios Kakavelos on Thursday acknowledged lying to police during two interviews following the October 2019 disappearance of his employee Allyzibeth Lamont, saying he did so out of fear of former co-defendant James Duffy, and to protect his family.
“Were you honest with police?” asked Kevin O’Brien, the lawyer for Kakavelos, who is on trial in Saratoga County Court on charges of first-degree murder and evidence tampering in connection with the death of Lamont, who was killed on Oct. 28, 2019, at the Local No. 9 Smokehouse and Substation in Johnstown, which Kakavelos owned and where Lamont and Duffy worked.
“Not at all,” answered Kakavelos, who spent five hours on the witness stand in his second day of testimony in his own defense.
Under cross-examination Thursday afternoon by Assistant District Attorney Alan Poremba, Kakavelos also acknowledged that despite having called Lamont his “best employee” and known her for several months, he did not know her last name. He has referred to her as “Alison” throughout his testimony, though friends called her “Ally.” “The one thing she said was please do not call me Allyzibeth,” he said.
Kakavelos also conceded during cross-examination that at the time, he faced $122,000 in debt to the Internal Revenue Service and $70,000 to the state of New York, including unpaid payroll and sales taxes.
Everyone who worked at Local No. 9 was paid in cash, Kakavelos said — meaning no payroll taxes were withheld, and no employee hourly records kept. Prosecutors contend that Lamont was killed because she had spoken to a state Department of Labor investigator a few weeks earlier about pay practices and working conditions at the establishment, and Kakavelos viewed her as a “ringleader” of employees who were against him.
At the end of Thursday’s court day, Kakavelos was also questioned about surveillance video from a nearby business on the evening Lamont was killed that appeared to raise questions about his version of events the night Lamont died.
Kakavelos testified under his attorney’s questioning on Tuesday that he took home another employee who was feeling ill, drove back to the deli, and used Twitter for awhile on his phone while sitting in his car before going into the deli and finding a bloodied Lamont dead on the floor and Duffy leaning over her.
But the survelliance footage shown by Poremba appears to show Duffy outside the deli when Kakavelos returns from taking the employee home about 6:12 p.m., and getting into Kakavelos car to ride out of sight behind the building. Duffy comes back and goes inside, then a person Poremba said was a customer came out less than a minute before Kakavelos came back in at 6:31 p.m. That would be when Kakavelos said he encountered the slaying scene.
“If that’s when I walked in, then it just happened,” Kakavelos said, in one of his last statements before the trial adjourned for the day.
Kakavelos remained composed throughout Thursday’s testimony, in sharp contrast to Tuesday, when he became tearful and repeatedly sobbed in recounting how Duffy cursed at him and brandished a knife to get Kakavelos to go to the Gloversville Walmart for cleaning supplies, and drive him to Northway Exit 13 in Malta, where Lamont’s body was buried.
In Duffy’s version of events, by contrast, Lamont was killed more than an hour later, shortly after the restaurant closed. Duffy said he hit Lamont in the back of the head with an aluminum baseball bat. He said Kakavelos put a plastic bag over her head and choked her, and that when she still struggled, Kakavelos told him to get something heavier, and he retrieved a small sledgehammer from the kitchen and hit her in the back of the head with it.
Duffy also testified that Kakavelos directed and was an active participant in the efforts to bury the body and dispose of evidence over the two days after the death.
Kakavelos, who will continue to face cross-examination on Friday, is expected to be the only defense witness. The prosecution rested its case earlier this week following four weeks of testimony, from Duffy, police officers, former Local No. 9 employees, and others.
Kakavelos maintains that Duffy — who in April pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testimony against Kakavelos — was the sole actor in the slaying. Testifying under oath on Thursday, Kakavelos contended he was threatened with a knife, he and his family were directly threatened with death and he was otherwise coerced by Duffy.
Duffy, 35, of Johnstown, is to receive 18 years to life in prison for his testimony, while Kakavelos, 52, of Milton, could receive a sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder as the instigator of a murder-for-hire scheme.
In Kakavelos’ own account of the aftermath of the killing, Duffy held a knife toward him and he drove Duffy more than 30 miles, to the Saratoga County town of Malta, to dispose of the body and other evidence on the night Lamont was killed. They went back the next night, when the body was buried.
When he was first brought to the Gloversville Police Department on Oct. 30, Kakavelos testified that he continued to fear Duffy, whom he earlier described as a “monster” the night of the slaying.
“The way he was then had nothing to do with the man you all experienced in the last few days,” Kakavelos told the jury, referring to Duffy’s demeanor while testifying earlier this week.
“I made a decision to protect my children, my wife and myself and maybe others,” Kakavelos testified at another point, explaining his decision to repeatedly lie to police.
During his police interview, which was recorded on a video jurors have seen, he said of Duffy, “I have never known him to be violent.” He also told police he saw Lamont leave the business alive the previous evening.
“I have seen the video. I’m not proud about it. At that time I made some wrong decisions,” Kakavelos said under questioning by Poremba.
Duffy also intially denied involvement, but in a follow-up interviews on Oct. 31, 2019, Duffy verbally and then in writing confessed, telling police that Kakavelos had paid him more than $1,000 to kill the 22-year-old Lamont, because she had spoken to state Labor Department investigators and was a “ringleader” among disgruntled employees.
During his own Oct. 31 followup interview, with police already aware of Duffy’s confession, he was not told that, but told there was unspecified “new evidence.” Kakavelos refused to answer further questions about the night Lamont died, saying he had already answered them during the Oct. 30 interview.
“Did they tell you Mr. Duffy had been arrested?” O’Brien asked during direct examination.
“I wish to God they had told me that,” Kakavelos replied. “It would have been a huge relief to me.”
Recounting events after the murder during direct examination, Kakavelos said Duffy brandished a knife at various points and repeatedly threatened him. He testified that he followed Duffy’s directions to drive to the southbound Exit 13 entrance ramp to the Northway. He said Duffy dug a grave and buried Lamont acting alone, while he watched from a ditch at the edge of the road.
“I could see the pure white color of her body was above the hole he had dug, and then I heard some splashing sound and then that monster was jumping up and down on her body, jumping up and down on her body so she would fit lower into the hole,” he testified.
After the body had been buried, Kakavelos continued, “(Duffy) comes out, grabs my face and says, ‘This is my security and insurance so you will never talk of this again.’ He grabbed my glasses and my beanie cap, he took three or four steps, and then comes right back in.”
Police have testified a pair of glasses was found in the wooded area off the Northway where Lamont’s body was found.
Lamont’s body was found by police on Oct. 31, 2019, after Duffy confessed and led police to it. Both Duffy and Kakavelos were arrested that night and have been in jail since then.
Kakavelos’ cross-examination will resume Friday morning.