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Survivor tells of 'evil' at sex assault sentencing

Survivor tells of 'evil' at sex assault sentencing

Defendant identified through DNA match
Survivor tells of 'evil' at sex assault sentencing
Lawrence Atkins

A woman told a Schenectady County Court on Friday of her life before she encountered Lawrence Atkins and her life afterward.
 

Her life before included imminent plans to graduate from college - she'd just started her senior year - and she loved art. 
 
After she encountered Atkins, a man she'd only known as the nameless attacker who sexually assaulted her after a September 2011 concert at SPAC, her life hasn't remotely been the same.
 
"I haven't graduated college because I couldn't relive the pain that I had dealt with that day," the woman told the court in a letter read by a prosecutor at Atkins' sentencing Friday morning. "Then I stopped doing art, the thing that I am most passionate about and the subject that I studied.
 
"I gave it up because everything that I was had been ripped away from me," her letter continued. "I often wonder if I will ever be the same and I know I never will be."
 
The woman relived the details of the 2011 attack earlier this year as DNA collected from Atkins following an unrelated conviction last year made its way through the state DNA database and came back as a match for the DNA collected in the woman's case.
 
Unmasked, Atkins eventually pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual act, in exchange for a sentence of six years in state prison. Prosecutors offered the sentence, close to the minimum for the crime, to spare the survivor from having to testify and relive the details further.
 
Judge Frank P. Milano imposed that sentence Friday and questioned Atkins' demeanor in court. The prosecutor at one point asked Atkins if he he found the proceedings funny after seeing Atkins smirk. 
 
The judge indicated he briefly considered researching whether he could pull the plea, but decided against it out of concern for the victim.
 
The agreement, however, left open the full term of supervision after Atkins' release, placing it between 10 and 20 years. Milano ordered the maximum, 20 years of supervision.
 
Atkins' attorney, Kathryn Conklin, argued for the minimum supervision term of 10 years. Atkins offered his own statement,  saying he does take responsibility for his actions.
 
"I make no excuses for my actions and I take full responsibility," Atkins, 49, previously of Glenville, said. He prefaced his remarks with the date of "this incident," September 2011. "While incarcerated, I plan to get the help I need to make sure this never transpires again."
 
Prosecutor Tracey Brunecz offered a lengthy argument in support of the long supervision, claiming Atkins doesn't truly appreciate the wrong he committed. 
 
She argued that Atkins repeatedly minimized his conduct, even after pleading guilty, and that he didn't truly express remorse. 
She also also pointed to a recorded jail call where Atkins dismissed the impact of the incident on the victim. 

The woman lives out of the area and did not attend the sentencing.In her statement read in court, the woman told of being separated from friends in Saratoga Springs and losing her purse with her phone. She found herself walking along a stretch of road, apparently Route 50, when a man pulled over and asked if I needed a ride.
 
"I would regrettably accept the offer," she wrote. 
 
Once inside, he immediately asked her to remove her top. "I started crying and pleaded with him to let me out of the car," she wrote. He didn't let her out.
 
"I was just terrified," she wrote, adding her thoughts at the time. "What if he kills me? What if I never see my loved ones? What if this is my last moment on earth?"
 
After being freed in the parking lot of the Glenville Price Chopper, she contacted police. She underwent the examination that collected her attacker's DNA and then, over the next four years, tried unsuccessfully to return to the life she once knew. 
 
Then, after the match, she got the call from the Schenectady County District Attorney's Office telling her they'd identified her attacker.
 
The path to that DNA match is its own long and involved story. Atkins had secretly recorded a woman undressing at a Rotterdam apartment complex in 2012. His camera card from that incident surfaced in late 2014, made its way to police, and led police to Atkins. Atkins eventually pleaded guilty to felony unlawful surveillance. With that, he had to submit a DNA sample to the state database, which proved a match to the 2011 case.
 
The woman wrote of her racing heart after learning from prosecutors of the DNA match. She retreated to her room hyperventilating, preparing for a panic attack. She has been plagued with such attacks and depression since that night in 2011.
Simply thinking about that night again, the woman wrote, put her emotions and anxiety on high. 
 
"Today I can only find solace in knowing that he will serve his sentence, albeit a minimal one," she wrote. "I find it so disheartening that people like him exist, it seems, only to carry out acts of violence and evil."
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