BOSTON – A Texas man pleaded guilty today in connection with kidnapping and stalking his then wife, and his subsequent efforts to prevent her testimony in federal court.
Sunil K. Akula, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping, one count of stalking, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of witness tampering. U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni scheduled sentencing for March 5, 2021. Akula was arrested and charged in September 2019.
On Aug. 6, 2019, Akula traveled from his home in Texas to Agawam, Mass. to confront his then wife, from whom he was living apart. A couple of days later, he physically assaulted his wife and forced her to leave her apartment and get into a car with him, stating that he was taking her back to Texas.
Akula then drove his wife south through many states, during which time he again assaulted her, forced her to send a resignation e-mail to her employer, and smashed her laptop and threw it on the side of the highway. Akula stopped at a Knox County, Tenn. hotel, where he again beat his wife. When Akula could not quiet his wife from crying loudly, he opened the door to leave the hotel room and was arrested by local law enforcement officers.
While Akula was held before trial, he made phone calls to family in India instructing them to contact his wife’s father so that he would convince her to withdraw her statemetns to law enforcement and not to testify, not to go to court or to have the charges against Akula dropped.
The charge of kidnapping provides for a sentence of up to life prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of stalking provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of obstruction of justice provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of witness tampering provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Chicopee Police Chief William R. Jebb; Agawam Police Chief Eric Gillis; Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler; and Plano (Texas) Interim Police Chief Dan Curtis made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Deepika Bains Shukla, Chief of Lelling’s Springfield Branch Office, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine G. Curley are prosecuting the case.