The downfall of former Schenectady police chief Gregory Kaczmarek was the top local story of 2008, according to readers of DailyGazette.com.
About 32 percent of the nearly 600 readers who voted in an online poll chose Kaczmarek's arrest and subsequent guilty plea to taking part in a large Schenectady-based drug ring as the biggest story in The DailyGazette's six-county coverage area.
Kaczmarek and his wife, Lisa, pleaded guilty Dec. 2 to drug charges in Schenectady County Court. Gregory Kaczmarek pleaded guilty to a single count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance as part of an agreement under which he will serve two years in prison and one year on probation, relinquish any badges he has and give up his nursing license. He will be formally sentenced Feb. 2.
To view the results of the poll, click HERE.
Click HERE to view the most popular individual stories from 2008 on DailyGazette.com.
Click HERE to view a gallery of the most popular photos of 2008.
Lisa Kaczmarek pleaded guilty to third-degree attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance as part of a deal under which she will serve six months in jail and five years on probation. She will also be formally sentenced Feb. 2.
The plea deals followed offers accepted by 21 others in the case, deals that generally included prison sentences ranging from time served to just more than five years. The two leaders of the drug ring, Kerry Kirkem and Oscar Mora, received deals of 12 and 20 years in state prison, respectively. Kirkem pleaded to a top drug possession count, accused of setting up deals and shipments and keeping workers in line. Mora got 20 years, increased by a federal weapons case.
Gregory Kaczmarek served as Schenectady police chief from 1996 to 2002, retiring in the wake of a department drug scandal that sent four officers to prison after a federal investigation. Allegations of drug use have long dogged him, even predating his time as chief. In the days before he was appointed, he denied the rumors at a news conference.
Click HERE to read DailyGazette.com's report on Kaczmarek's guilty plea. Click HERE and HERE to read transcripts of calls between the Kaczmareks and drug ring leader Kirkem.
Kaczmarek's arrest and plea was by far chosen as the top story of 2008, topping the massive ice storm of Dec. 11-12 that crippled most of the Capital Region for as long as a week. That story picked up 18 percent of reader votes. Click HERE to read DailyGazette.com's initial report on the storm and HERE to view a photo gallery of the impact, as photographed by both Daily Gazette staff and readers.
The rest of the year's top 10 stories, as chosen by DailyGazette.com staff and ranked by readers through the online poll:
3) The loss of thousands of area jobs as the nation plunged into recession. Click HERE to read DailyGazette.com's coverage of one of the year's largest single job cuts, the planned closing of Super Steel's plant in the Scotia-Glenville Industrial Park.
4) The rollercoaster ride of gasoline and heating fuel prices from record highs during the summer to low levels unseen in many years. Click HERE to read DailyGazette.com's coverage of the impact of high fuel prices this summer on area businesses, and HERE to check current gasoline prices around the region.
5) The story of Sloan Carafello, the Schenectady man who committed suicide June 7 by jumping out of a small plane carrying members of the Duanesburg Skydiving Club. Click HERE to read DailyGazette.com's coverage of Carafello's fatal jump.
6) A massive April 24 fire destroyed three old mill buildings on West State Street in Johnstown. Click HERE to read DailyGazette.com's coverage of the fire and HERE to view a photo gallery.
7) Seven members of the Anderson family were hit by an SUV on Dec. 3 as they crossed State Street in Schenectady while walking home from a trip for ice cream. Click HERE to read a DailyGazette.com report on the crash and HERE to check in with the family three weeks later.
8) Plans by Advanced Micro Devices to build a multi-billion dollar chip fabrication plant in the Luther Forest Technology Park in Saratoga County continued to progress throughout the year. Click HERE to read DailyGazette.com's coverage of the long-awaited official announcement that the plant would be built.
9) Longtime Assemblyman Paul Tonko's was elected to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty. Click HERE to read DailyGazette.com's report on Tonko's victory over Republican James Buhrmaster.
9) The New York Racing Association reached an agreement to continue running the state's thoroughbred tracks, including Saratoga Race Course. Click HERE to read DailyGazette.com's report on the state Legislature's approval of the 25-year deal.