FULTON & SARATOGA COUNTIES – The Saratoga County Court jury that will decide the fate of first-degree murder defendant Georgios Kakavelos heard closing arguments Monday, as the trial of the Johnstown sub shop owner charged in the death of 22-year-old Allyzibeth Lamont enters its sixth week.
Prosecutors argue that Kakavelos, 52, of Milton, planned, helped carry out and covered up the death of Lamont, of Gloversville, his employee at the Local No. 9 Smokehouse and Substation. Lamont was beaten to death with a baseball bat and hammer in a side room at the shop on Oct. 28, 2019. Her body was found three days later in a shallow grave off the southbound entrance ramp of Northway Exit 13.
Assistant District Attorney Alan Poremba said Kakavelos had a clear financial motive for killing her — his business was failing, he owed $70,000 in state taxes and $122,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, and Lamont was talking to the state Department of Labor about his ongoing practice of paying workers under the table, thereby avoiding taxes.
That was enough to evoke Kakavelos’ personal hatred, Poremba said. “He perceived her as a whistleblower,” he said. “She was threatening to go on social media.”
Kakavelos’ former employee James Duffy, 35, then of Johnstown, led police to the burial site after an Oct. 31 police interview, and gave a statement admitting the murder and saying Kakavelos sought Lamont’s death after she had spoken to a state Department of Labor investigator.
Duffy was also initially indicted on a first-degree murder charge, but he pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder, in exchange for an expected 18-year to life prison sentence, on condition of his truthfully testifying against Kakavelos, his boss at the time.
The defense contends that Duffy alone was responsible for the murder, and implicated Kakavelos with plans to seek a reduced sentence. Conviction for first-degree murder could bring a sentence of life in prison without parole.
“There is only one murderer in this case, James Duffy,” defense attorney Kevin O’Brien said during his closing argument.
Kakavelos faces 11 charges, including counts of first- and second-degree murder, second-degree conspiracy, two counts of concealing a human corpse, and six counts of tampering with evidence, with the tampering having taken place in Fulton, Saratoga and Albany counties.
Kakavelos is accused of paying Duffy for the killing, participating, and buying cleaning supplies and making multiple other efforts to conceal the crime, including getting his car interior cleaned and deodorized on Oct. 31, even as he knew police were looking to interview him for a second time.
Prosecutors have presented 66 witnesses and 651 pieces of evidence over 18 days of testimony.
“She spoke up for herself, she spoke up for others. He silenced that voice,” Poremba said in his summation, which lasted just over two hours. “The evidence speaks volumes, louder than any attorney can.”
Much of O’Brien’s two-hour summation involved attacking Duffy, who he called a “drunken crackhead” with an arrest record, while Kakavelos had never been arrested since coming to the United State more than 30 years ago. Even if Lamont had made a complaint to the state Department of Labor, he said, killing her didn’t make sense for Kakavelos, whereas Duffy was “infatuated” with Lamont.
“It doesn’t make sense for him to risk everything he had since coming to this country to kill a 22-year-old girl,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien argued that Duffy implicated Kakavelos during an Oct. 31 police interview knowing he would be able to benefit from helping police make a case against his boss. “He knew he would benefit from implicating someone else in the killing, and the manner of the murder looks more like a crime of passion than a well-planned murder for hire plot,” he told jurors.
“Their theory is that there was a murder for hire planned over days, and executed as poorly as a murder could be,” O’Brien said.
“He has the mind of a criminal, the actions of a criminal, and we know he is a despicable human being whom the government chose to use as their key witness in this case,” O’Brien said.
Poremba didn’t dispute the characterizations of Duffy, but noted that Kakavelos had hired him at least twice, even after he had also fired him for drinking.
“You know what, ladies and gentlemen, you have every right to believe James Duffy is a despicable human being, but you know what, the defendant is the one who chose him as his right-hand man,” he said.
“James Duffy is no angel. But this is a murder-for-hire case, and you don’t hire an angel to do the devil’s job,” Poremba said a little later in his argument.
He called surveillance video “absolutely devastating” for the defense, because he said the movements shown on it undermine the defense timeline of events, with a customer leaving the restaurant just a short time before Kakavelos said he walked in on the murder scene.
Kakavelos, testifying in his own defense, said last week that he came into the deli from taking another employee home to find Duffy had just committed the gruesome murder. He said he only cooperated in covering it up because of threats and intimidation from Duffy, and played no active role in cleaning up the bloody scene or burying the body.
Poremba ridiculed that version of events. “I submit to you that his testimony is incredible, and by incredible I mean unworthy of belief,” he said.
Noting that Kakavelos had many opportunities to go to the police, he said the reason wasn’t fear of Duffy. “Why doesn’t he call police? It’s not because of duress, it’s because he was trying to get away with murder,” Poremba told jurors.
Poremba said Duffy, who testified for three days, gave “cringe-worthy” answers about the killing but gave direct and credible answers to questions.
Prior to the closing arguments, Kakavelos testified briefly, completing four days on the witness stand, testifying in his own defense. He was the only defense witness.
“I do know what I walked into, I do not what I saw, I do know what I heard, I do know I had nothing to do with it….” Kakavelos told the jury, before an objection by Poremba sustained by County Court Judge James A. Murphy III stopped him from continuing.
With closing arguments completed on Monday, the jury is expected to receive its legal instructions from Murphy on Wednesday morning and begin deliberations.