David K. Atkinson abuses women and the risk is great that he's beyond rehabilitation, Judge Charles Zambito decided in Genesee County Court this afternoon as he sent Atkinson to state prison for 15 years.
His victim, a former Pembroke resident, said only a sentence of 10 to 15 years could help her feel safe, though she fears her life will never be as good as it was before Atkinson attacked her, threatened her with a claw hammer and forced her to perform oral sex on him while he live-streamed it to another man in Darien.
She said her life is filled with fear and anxiety. She can't return to the house where she lived, even though she's still paying the mortgage, and she suffers from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome) and frequent nightmares.
"I can't stop imagining David breaking into my house despite the doors being locked," she said. "I can picture him chasing me down in my house and beating me. I picture him beating and killing my children. I picture him raping and killing me. I don't feel safe no matter how many counseling sessions I go to. I can't escape the nightmares."
The 39-year-old Atkinson was found guilty following a jury trial in August of criminal sexual act in the first degree.
He testified at his own trial and denied all of the woman's allegations. He didn't deny the sex act. He said it was consensual and described it as "make-up sex" after an argument because he found text messages on the woman's phone to another man -- the man in Darien.
By this time, the woman and Atkinson had long been out of a relationship and Atkinson supposedly had another girlfriend, but he said he and the victim continued to have a casual sexual relationship, which he said was proof that he didn't force her into a sex act.
During the trial, there was a woman who sat in the front row as a supporter of Atkinson.
After the trial, Atkinson was released on bond and he traveled to North Carolina with the woman. His sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 21 but he missed that court date.
On that date, he was in jail in North Carolina for allegedly strangling the woman who had been his ally during the trial.
A common thread between the North Carolina incident and the attack on the woman locally: An empty bottle of Evan Williams bourbon was found at both scenes, said Robert Zickl, assistant district attorney.
Atkinson also has a prior misdemeanor conviction, from 2013, for abusing his first wife in Erie County.
The victim, in this case, described Atkinson as charming and that he seemed like a dream come true when they first met.
She said she was feeling good about her life when they met. She was four years clean after overcoming an addiction and adjusting to life as a single mother. She had a good job, had bought a house and was making her mortgage payments.
She let Atkinson move in with her and soon the trouble started. First, he refused to work. He wasn't contributing at all financially to the household. Then, she said, he starting insulting her and the kids.
When she tried to get him to move out, he threatened her and threatened to damage her house and her belongings.
"I felt trapped and didn't know what to do," she said.
Then Atkinson found a new girlfriend and the woman thought that would solve her problems. It didn't. Atkinson didn't leave.
One night he scrolled through the messages on a mobile phone and found a non-romantic conversation between the woman and the man in Darien. That started a fight and eventually the forced, live-streamed sex act over messaging.
"I miss the way my life was before that night," the woman told Zambito.
A 10- to 15-year sentence might not only help her find some peace of mind, she said, but it would also protect other women.
"You can save other women before another woman becomes another victim," she said. "Please help save another woman from becoming a victim of David Atkinson."
Zickl opened his statement to Zambito with, "I don't know when (the victim) wrote her statement, but it could be considered prophetic."
He then described the alleged attack and arrest of Atkinson in North Carolina.
Zickl sought the maximum term for Atkinson of 20 to 25 years. He noted that a sentence, in this case, was neither for rehabilitation nor for deterrence. Clearly, he said, deterrence wouldn't work in this case because he already attacked another woman.
"He did that knowing you would hear about it and it would affect his sentence in this court," Zickl told Zambito.
Atkinson made no statement in court.
Zambito presided over the trial in August and remembered the defendant's denials.
"I heard the testimony," Zambito said. "I also heard from the victim about your brutality and the significant affect it had on her. It doesn't need to be recited here again. You claimed it was consensual. You blamed it all on her. This happened, you said, because she was unfaithful to you. You portrayed yourself as the victim. That's perhaps the most disturbing thing here. You testified, and the jury didn't believe you and I don't believe you either. I believe her."