The Albany Times Union by PAUL NELSON - December 3, 2008
SCHENECTADY - Exactly one year after prosecutors say he consorted with a known drug dealer who was his cocaine supplier, disgraced former Schenectady police chief Gregory T. Kaczmarek could be starting a stint in state prison. Kaczmarek, 56, is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 2, 2009, to two years of prison and a year of postrelease supervision after pleading guilty Tuesday in Schenectady County Court to third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He also has agreed to give up his police badge, any weapons he has and his nursing license, but will get to keep his pension, according to court officials and attorneys. His wife, Lisa Kaczmarek, 48, is scheduled to receive six months in county jail and five years' post-release supervision for admitting to a charge of attempted third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, an offense related to the couple's criminal activity on Feb. 2. On his way into court Tuesday, the ex-chief took responsibility for his criminal misdeeds and apologized for any disgrace he may have brought to the profession.
"Anything that I have done should really not have any impact on the Schenectady Police Department or people in law enforcement in general," he told reporters. "There's a lot of men and women in law enforcement working hard to do the right thing, and if my actions have made their job more difficult, I truly and sincerely apologize." Both Kaczmareks remain free on bail until the sentencing. The 13-month state attorney general-led probe, dubbed "Operation Slim Chance," first ensnared Lisa Kaczmarek and her son Miles Smith along with 22 others in May, and Gregory Kaczmarek in September. To build their case, state investigators amassed hours of secretly recorded telephone conversations. In one, Lisa Kaczmarek is heard pleading for a shipment of cocaine with another drug dealer for her husband's upcoming 56th birthday. In another recorded call, she suggested the ex-chief could transport cocaine for the ring and would "flash his badge" if there was trouble. The husband and wife had initially pleaded not guilty to drug charges that could have landed them behind bars for a long time for their role in a large-scale drug distribution ring headed by Kerry "Slim" Kirkem. The drug enterprise funneled heroin and cocaine from Long Island and Manhattan to Schenectady, using mules and threatening violence to would-be interlopers. Kirkem has pleaded guilty to drug charges.
Kaczmarek's attorney, Thomas O'Hern, bemoaned the deal, saying his client essentially took the deal to spare his wife a prison term. Conversely, Kevin Luibrand, who represents Lisa Kaczmarek, said she got a "proper deal" and wants to move on with her life. A spokeswoman with the state Department of Corrections said Tuesday it was too early to say where Kaczmarek might do his time. Linda Foglia said that determination will come after he's screened and evaluated at the Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, Dutchess County, before being placed at a permanent facility. "Obviously we will take into consideration his former employment and risk and special needs," she added. As for his wife, county jail officials say she must be first be classified before being placed in one of two blocks for female prisoners, or perhaps another nearby jail. "We'll take the appropriate steps to ensure her safety," said Schenectady County Jail Undersheriff Gordon Pollard, adding that there is one floor with two blocks for women at the facility. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said the "convictions show that no one is above the law." "The involvement of a former chief of police in this organized drug ring is an insult to the countless law enforcement officials who risk their lives every day to protect our communities," he added in a prepared statement. "As we did in this case and all others, my office will continue to hold all public servants accountable for their actions."
The Kaczmareks could have faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted at trial of the top count in the indictment, conspiracy. Instead, with time off for good behavior, Kaczmarek could be out in 17 months and his wife could be released in four months. Prosecutors alleged the Kaczmareks met with Kirkem in a Colonie strip club on Feb. 20 after discovering that State Police seized a shipment of drugs from one of the ring's "mules." They allege the former chief urged Kirkem to move his stash house, change his telephone numbers and "fire" Misty Gallo, the woman who had been caught with the drugs. O'Hearn said those allegations are groundless. Kaczmarek has been plagued by rumors for years. Before then-Mayor Albert P. Jurczynski appointed him top cop in 1996, Kaczmarek held a news conference to dispel a whisper campaign about his alleged drug use. Jurczynski did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment. His six years as chief were also marked by controversy. The FBI investigated his department and eventually helped prosecutors convict four officers on drug-related charges. Paul Nelson can be reached at 454-5347 or by e-mail at email@example.com.