Former Schenectady police chief Greg Kaczmarek was led out of a Schenectady County courtroom Monday in handcuffs, moments after being sentenced on his earlier plea of guilty to drug possession.
Kaczmarek, 56, was sentenced to two years in state prison for his role in a local drug ring. During his sentencing, the prosecutor in the case attempted to set the records straight on why Kaczmarek pleaded guilty.
Kaczmarek appeared in court before Judge Karen Drago, apologizing for his actions and their effect on others.
“It’s my fault. I take responsibility for my actions,” Kaczmarek told the court. “Criticism of others is not fair.
“I accept responsibility for my actions and I apologize,” he said. “I’m sorry you had to deal with this, judge.”
Kaczmarek’s sentencing followed his December guilty plea to third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He admitted to possessing cocaine with intent to sell it on Feb. 2, 2008, exactly one year before Monday’s sentencing.
He attended his sentencing wearing casual clothes, blue jeans and a fleece sweatshirt. He also appeared somewhat nervous, unsure of where to put his hands as the proceedings began, starting to put them behind him before settling on keeping them in front of him.
It was at the conclusion of the proceedings that he returned his hands behind him, when Corrections Officer John Affinito placed the cuffs on him and led him from the room.
Kaczmarek was sentenced as his wife Lisa Kaczmarek waited in sheriff’s custody for her own sentencing. She appeared in an orange jail jumpsuit, having turned herself in last month to begin serving her sentence.
The indignities of jail life were already apparent: Disheveled hair and handcuffs attached to a waist chain. The handcuffs remained on throughout the proceedings, even as she had to lower herself to sign paperwork.
“I apologize for any wrongdoing,” Lisa Kaczmarek said before briefly breaking into tears.
It was her sentence that was central to the prosecutor’s argument about the reasons her husband pleaded guilty.
Following his December plea, Greg Kaczmarek’s attorney, Thomas O’Hern, said Kaczmarek pleaded guilty for his wife, so she would not have to go to prison. Lisa Kaczmarek pleaded guilty that same day to attempted drug possession.
But prosecutor Michael Sharpe, of the state Attorney General’s Office, Monday tried to refute those comments after a similar account made it into a pre-
Greg Kaczmarek had the opportunity to spare his wife at least some jail time last summer, but he chose not to, Sharpe told the court.
Prosecutors offered him a deal prior to his own indictment, saying if he accepted responsibility then, that would be taken into account in his wife’s sentence, Sharpe said. The offer came after she was indicted, but before Greg Kaczmarek was indicted.
Greg Kaczmarek had avoided indictment when the rest of the defendants were named. Prosecutors and the state police Community Narcotics Enforcement team had mounds of recordings. Two calls were identified early on, both with Lisa Kaczmarek on the phone with drug ring leader Kerry Kirkem, discussing trying to get cocaine for Greg’s birthday.
Greg Kaczmarek was identified as taking part in the phone call, talking from the background. The calls were referenced in the May indictments and Greg Kaczmarek's name was used. But the former chief was not indicted. Officials said it was over the summer that the evidence against Greg Kaczmarek mounted. Phone numbers were received and matched to recordings and to Greg Kaczmarek.
The indictment handed up in September carried a lengthy list of alleged acts by the two, including many phone calls with Kirkem, in which authorities said they asked for and received drugs.
Among the allegations were that Greg Kaczmarek offered to go on a drug run himself, and if he got caught he would flash his badge.
Both Sharpe and Drago attempted in court to respond to rampant criticism of the Kaczmareks’ sentences. The Kaczmareks were among two dozen indicted as players in the drug organization headed by Kirkem and Oscar Mora. All 24 arrested have since taken plea deals, and only three have yet to be sentenced. One man, the alleged Long Island supplier, Maximo Doe, remains at large.
The attorney for one of the accused organization managers last week even filed a formal motion comparing his client’s involvement with Lisa Kaczmarek’s. Brian Toal, attorney for co-defendant Hazel Nader, argued that the Kaczmareks got unfairly lighter sentences, calling them “embarrassing.” Drago is expected to respond in a ruling later this month.
But both Drago and Sharpe pointed out in court why they believed the Kaczmareks’ sentences were appropriate in comparison to the others.
The Kaczmareks, Sharpe argued, could be proved to have purchased two “8-balls” of cocaine, using some and selling some. Both were at the lower levels of the organization.
Other members were in daily contact, either selling drugs, transporting them or running the operation.
Greg Kaczmarek, the proof would have showed, received the drugs directly from Kirkem in front of a local video store. Lisa Kaczmarek paid for them later, Sharpe said.
Greg Kaczmarek, however, used his years of law enforcement knowledge to advise Kirkem following the apparent police seizure of drugs owned by the ring. Greg Kaczmarek’s attorney, O’Hern, repeated in court that his client continues to deny giving Kirkem such advice.
But that allegation, and Greg Kaczmarek’s law enforcement background, warranted his two years in prison, over his wife’s six months. Greg Kaczmarek spent 27 years in law enforcement, six of those as Schenectady’s police chief.
Drago gave an opinion at odds with Sharpe’s over Greg Kaczmarek’s police background.
“While it is enormously disappointing that an individual who held a position of such esteem stands before the court convicted of a drug offense, the position as former chief of police in and of itself does not warrant a harsher sentence,” Drago said.
Drago also emphasized arguments that the Kaczmareks weren’t receiving money from the organization, as others were. Neither had criminal records.
“Not to minimize your involvement,” Drago told Lisa Kaczmarek at her sentencing, “but your culpability with respect to getting illegal drugs on the street was far less than your co-defendants.”
Drago, who oversees the county’s drug court, also referenced apparent past drug use by Lisa Kaczmarek. “Your demise was your relapse,” Drago told her.
She made no such reference during Greg Kaczmarek’s sentencing. He had faced whispers of drug use for decades.
Drago, however, ordered both screened for any drug programs.
The case, she said, is an example of how “drug addiction crosses all walks of life and how anyone can succumb to this.”