A 19-year-old who prosecutors say tried to rape a woman in Uniondale before shooting a college student who came to her aid went on trial Monday in a case that has attracted the attention of former Vice President Joe Biden.
The Nassau district attorney’s office has alleged Ahkhazyah Wright shot Kyle Richard, who played football at SUNY Cortland before his May graduation, after Richard and two friends broke down a door at a 2017 Uniondale house party to stop a sexual assault.
Biden, who in April entered the 2020 presidential race, dubbed Richard “a hero” last spring while recognizing him at a ceremony in Manhattan for the national Biden Courage Awards.
The annual ceremony, hosted by It’s On Us and the Biden Foundation, honors students who are working to prevent sexual assault.
Prosecutors said Richard, a Lakeview resident whose mother is a Nassau police sergeant, will testify during Wright’s trial in Nassau County Court.
The charges against the Roosevelt man, who maintains his innocence, include attempted murder, attempted sexual abuse, assault and gun offenses.
Prosecutor Emma Slane told jurors in her opening statement Monday that the violence broke out on July 23, 2017, at a Maple Avenue home in Uniondale where college friends threw a house party.
At nearly 3 a.m., Richard and two friends heard a woman’s cries for help and forced open a bathroom door to find Wright with one hand around the victim’s neck as he fumbled with his zipper, Slane said.
“He tried to rape me,” the prosecutor said the victim, who was clearly impaired by alcohol or drugs, told the trio before they escorted Wright out of the house.
But outside a short time later, Wright pulled a gun from his pants and began firing at the three, with bullets slicing through each of Richard’s legs before the star college linebacker was able to take cover in the house, Slane said. The other two were unharmed.
Minutes after that, Wright unleashed a second volley of gunshots when another group of friends who had been at the party earlier arrived back at the location after a deli run, according to the prosecutor.
That time, Wright allegedly fired into the back of another male victim, one who Slane said still has a bullet lodged in one of his arms.
The prosecutor said police arrested Wright the next day, with four eyewitnesses picking him out as the shooter, but authorities never recovered the weapon.
Wright’s attorney, Robert Schalk, told jurors Monday that his client’s parents let police into the family’s home without a warrant to search for a gun.
The Mineola defense lawyer called the prosecution’s case “flawed,” and suggested that the ability of witnesses to recognize someone could have been impaired if they were drinking or using drugs at the party.
Schalk also said that the victim of the alleged sex assault attempt either didn’t tell police during a statement that morning, or they didn’t note at first that she had been drinking at two parties, had used Xanax and had asked Wright for cocaine.
“I submit to you ladies and gentlemen that there is doubt and it is reasonable,” Schalk added as he wrapped up his opening statement by calling Wright “innocent of these charges.”
The trial continues Tuesday before State Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald.