Bergen man's hopes for lenient sentence dashed by judge (2023)

Defense AttorneyMichael T. Dwan admitted in County Court Wednesdaythat after 20 years of practice, he's become pretty cynical,catching clients in lies, and finding out disappointing things he didn't know about them from pre-sentence investigations, but that hasn't been the case with Kaleb Bobzien, he said.

Kaleb, he said, is different. He's smart. He's articulate. He graduated with honors from Byron-Bergen High School. He was captain of the football team.

"This kid has a ton of potential," Dwan told Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini. "I think he's a good kid. I think he's going to turn out just fine."

Bergen man's hopes for lenient sentence dashed by judge (1)He argued that Bobzien should get credit for time served, and those 115 days in jail was punishment enough.

Cianfrini didn't see it that way. In weighing a potential sentence for Bobzien, the things she needed to look at, she said, were the crimes he admitted to, his criminal history, his past tendency to disobey court orders, and whether he could be dissuaded from repeating his crimes.

In December,Bobzien entered a guilty plea to two misdemeanors – on an Alford basis, meaning he doesn’t admit to the factual assertions of the charges, he just acknowledges the likelihood of conviction at trial -- to criminal contempt and to an obstruction breathing/blood circulation.

Cianfrini was particularly concerned about the obstruction of breathing charge. He's been charged with that before, and that's the kind of action, she said, that could lead him, even unintentionally, to killing somebody.

"You do need some additional time to sit and think about what you can do to keep this from happening again," Cianfrini said.

On both convictions, she sentenced him to 364 days in jail on each count, with the sentences served concurrently.

After his guilty plea in December, Bobzien and Dwan sat down with The Batavian for an interview in a courthouse meeting room. The most serious allegations against Bobzien -- what is commonly known as statutory rape -- had been dropped. Even though Bobzien maintained his innocence -- hence the Alford plea -- and Dwan believed his client, it was still Dwan's advice that Bobzien acceptthe plea offer because of the color of Bobzien's skin.

"Because we walked into this with extraordinarily high risk," Dwan said at the time. "Let's be real, Kalebis a young black man who is facing sex allegations, so as an attorney, I begged Kalebto accept the plea that was put before him, not because I don't think that we would have succeeded at trial, but because the risk of going to trial would have been extraordinary."

Today, in court, Dwan explained at length to Cianfrini why he believed his client is innocent.

On the contempt charges, of disobeying a stay-away order, Dwan said it was his view that the language on the order of protection allowed Bobzien to return to the residence where the teenage girl was living so he could pick up his personal belongings.

As for the seven counts of rape in the third degree and criminal sexual act in the third degree, those charges wouldn't have stood up because the dates and times conflicted with periods of time when Bobzien was out of the country. He also said there was sensitive medical evidence that indicated Kaleb didn't have sexual contact with the teenager who made the complaint against Bobzien.

The victim had been arrested previously on a complaint by Bobzien on a criminal mischief charge. She then told a State Police investigator, Dwan said, "He turned me in to get me arrested. I'm going to put his butt in jail" (or words to that effect, Dwan explained, because he didn't have the exact quote in front of him).

He faulted the State Police investigator for not probing the girl's statements more thoroughly.

"I don't think the investigation was fair," Dwan said. "If it was (the investigator's) son facing these charges, I'm sure he would want the investigatorserious, pointed questions put to the victim."

Dwan said, "the assumption was that the complainant was being honest, and he should have had plenty of reason to believe she was being dishonest. That assumption colored the entire investigation. That led to very serious charges that were in the media. If you Google 'Kaleb Bobzien,' the results are not favorable. That is going to be there forever."

He said at the time of the event that led to the obstruction of breathing charge came up, the complainant and another teenager were living with Bobzien and his child in a tiny apartment that wasn't suitable for them. Dwan expressed some wonder at the girl's mother allowing her to live there.

"The whole thing didn't make any sense."

On the night of the incident, Bobzien came home from work and found the two girls and the young child in a room filled with marijuana smoke. That upset Bobzien, and he took away their vape pipes, which they weren't even old enough to possess legally.

"The girls freaked out," Dwan said.

Bobzien went to bed, but the two girls started going after him.

"Whether he handled it perfectly or not, I don't know," Dwan said.

"I firmly believe that if this case went to trial, it would have unraveled quickly," Dwan said. "I think any thread you pulled on this sweater, you could have quickly had no sweater."

He said Bobzien does have issues with authority. In that way, he isn't much different from a lot of young men, especially if you consider his background -- he's one of 45 biological children of his father's, and his father was killed by police officers. Bobzien was adopted as a child by a couple living in Bergen.

Dwan has been mentoring his client, he said. They watched body camera footage of Bobzien's interactions with police officers, and Dwan pointed out all the ways Bobzien mishandled the interaction and how he was disrespectful to the officers.

"Most of the trouble he's had is because he runs his mouth," Dwan said. "That's not an unusual response for a young man of his age, and in that respect, especially one with his background. I hope he's learned he needs to be respectful toward authority."

Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl said he favored the maximum available sentence under the plea bargain -- a year in jail -- because of the seriousness of the charges and because of Bobzien's history of disobeying court orders and previous criminal acts.

Bobzien's statement to the court was filled with thank-yous.

He thanked his family for standing with him.

"I know it wasn't easy for them to read the things said about me,and yet somehow they still loved me and supported me, and that's what I needed," he said. "When this happened, there were some really dark, dark days.

He thanked his attorney for not only believing in him but "also encouraging me to be a better person. He has opened my eyes to things."

He thanked the people of Batavia, whom he said have shown him a lot of support.

He thanked Robert Zickl for his professionalism, both for his willingness to listen and drop the rape charges also for his toughness in upholding the law.

"I knew if my child was a victim, I would want those accusations to be taken seriously," Bobzien said. "Our only job is to protect kids, protect our future. He made it tough to prove my innocence, but he did the right thing."

He then apologized to one of the court officers.

At Bobzien's previous appearance, while he was waiting for his case to be called, Bobzien was looking at his phone while another case was proceeding, and the officer told him to put the phone down. Apparently, Bobzien spoke back to the officer. An exchange Cianfrini later reprimanded him for.

"I disrespected you last time I was here," Bobzien told the officer. "That wasn't right. I don't want this to be about race, but as a black man doing what you do, I should respect you. Black excellence is a hard thing to achieve, and I know that is my goal in life."

Previously:Bergen resident feels vindicated, can move forward with life, after felony rape charges dropped

Photo: File photo of attorneyMichael T. Dwan and Kaleb Bobzien after Bobzien's court appearance in December.

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