What concerned Fred Weber more than what did happen was what could have happened.
No one was home when three young burglars broke in to his Rotterdam home in September 2010, making off with electronics and anything else they could carry.
But, just the weekend before, Weber told the courtroom, his young niece and nephew were at his home.
“What would they have done? Would they have hurt those kids if they were in their way?” asked Weber, adding a short time later: “It’s not just about destroying someone’s property and stealing, they’ve made people in my family and neighborhood worry about their safety.”
Weber spoke at the sentencing Friday morning in Schenectady County Court of Davon Ballard, 18, of Schenectady. Ballard pleaded guilty earlier to one count of second-degree burglary, a felony.
Ballard faced up to 5 1⁄2 years in prison in return for his plea. The final number was left up to Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago on Friday, and she gave him the maximum possible, 5 1⁄2 years.
Ballard and two other teens were arrested shortly after the break-in — alert neighbors called police after spotting a suspicious teenager pacing in the yard, acting as a lookout.
Weber noted those neighbors in his statement. “I thank God I have good neighbors,” he said. “Good neighbors are worth their weight in gold.”
A second teen, Duane Oates, 16, pleaded guilty to a related charge and is to be sentenced later. The third teen, age 13, was expected to face charges in Family Court.
After the arrest, while Ballard was free pending trial, he was charged with burglarizing three other residences in Schenectady in October, authorities said. In one, there were allegations that he pushed a resident to the floor while trying to flee, prosecutor Ed Moynihan said.
Ballard’s plea to the September burglary satisfies the other burglary charges, as well.
In his own comments, Moynihan asked Drago to impose the maximum sentence, noting Weber’s comments about what could have happened. But Moynihan asked Drago to focus on something else, on what actually happened.
“What did happen was a robbery of this man’s peace of mind, the fears that he and others are left with,” Moynihan said. “Mr. Weber is just one of four families.”
Ballard was represented in court by attorney Brian Mercy. Mercy noted his client only recently turned 18. While he has a history as a juvenile, he has no adult criminal history.
Mercy also argued his client suffered from substance abuse.
“He’s aware of his wrongdoings, judge,” Mercy said. “I don’t think you’ll see him here in the future.”
Mercy asked for a sentence of 31⁄2 years.
For his part, Ballard told the court that he apologized to the families. “I accept responsibility for my actions,” he said.
Drago, however, said she didn’t buy that substance abuse was a motivating factor in the crime. She argued that the burglaries were too methodical to have been committed by an addict. “Don’t think for a minute that you’re fooling this court,” she said.
She also referenced the allegation that Ballard pushed down a resident who came upon him in one of the other burglaries.
“The fact that you pushed somebody down who walked in on you,” she said, “you knew exactly what you were doing.”
Drago then noted the closing portion of Weber’s statement to the court, in which Weber argued that Ballard should use his time in prison to better himself through education. “I think Mr. Weber gave you the best advice anybody can give you,” Drago said, “Get yourself an education, and get your addiction under control.”