[Return to Home Page] [Subscriptions] [Newsstands] [Contact Us] [Archives]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 22, 2005

After Christmas party
Man arrested for raping co-worker

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — A man living in a Guilderland motel was arrested Saturday after, police say, he raped a co-worker there.

Scott J. Cole, 28, of 2019 Western Ave., the Western Motel, was charged with first-degree rape, a felony.

Cole and the complainant worked together at the Goodyear Wholesale Tire Center, in Colonie, said Guilderland Senior Investigator John Tashjian. They attended a company Christmas party Saturday and the woman agreed to drive Cole home, Tashjian said.

The woman went into Cole’s hotel room with him, Tashjian said, because he said he’d pay her $20 for gas. Cole then sexually assaulted her, the investigator said.

The woman drove home to Schenectady, told a family member what happened, and the relative called Schenectady Police, Tashjian said. That agency contacted the Guilderland Police and Cole was arrested, Tashjian said.

"We had enough physical evidence where we felt comfortable charging him," Tashjian said.

A representative of Goodyear, where Cole worked, declined comment to The Enterprise; he also declined to say whether Cole has been fired.

A man who answered the phone at the Western Motel also declined comment. He said only that Cole rented a room there for a while.

Cole has been arrested in the past, but not for sex-related crimes, Tashjian said.

He was arrested on Oct. 16, 2004, at the 20 Mall, for petit larceny, a misdemeanor, according to a previously-printed arrest report in The Enterprise. Police said then that Cole, who was then listed as living at 22 School Road, in Guilderland Center, stole the tip container from Dunkin’ Donuts and he was stopped by an employee of the store.

After Saturday’s arrest, Cole was remanded to Albany County’s jail without bail; he is scheduled to appear in Guilderland Town Court tonight (Thursday).

Other assaults

Earlier this year in Guilderland, police made one arrest for rape and another for sexual assault. Last year in Guilderland, a rape in March resulted in a guilty plea 10 months later.

After he pleaded guilty, Steven Masters Jr. was sentenced in January to 40 years in prison for raping a Guilderland woman. Masters was earlier sentenced to another 40 years for rape and attempted rape in Schenectady County.

The Guilderland crime was on March 9, 2004. Then, a Woodlake Apartment resident reported to police that a man knocked on her door and, when she unlocked it, he forced his way in and raped her.

After she was attacked, the woman immediately called Guilderland Police. Soon after, Guilderland investigators teamed with Rotterdam and Niskayuna police. They determined that the three incidents were linked because the suspect showed the same modus operandi, Guilderland Police Chief James Murley said after the arrest.

Police then found Masters because of his car. A few Rotterdam residents reported seeing a dark-colored Jaguar in the area on the night the woman said she was raped, Murley said earlier.

Police began to search for all local residents who had Jaguars, he said; there were about 800. Masters later solicited a prostitute for sex, Murley said, and, working with police, the prostitute wrote down Masters’s license-plate number. Soon after, Masters was arrested.

This September, a man, 28, was arrested for raping his 14-year-old neighbor in his Church Road trailer. And, last month, a father and his girlfriend were charged with sexually assaulting the man’s two young daughters.

Spa manager charged with larceny

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — A Greene County woman was arrested last Thursday for stealing over $65,000 from the Guilderland business she managed.

Kathryn Ann Pitcher, 28, of Leeds, was charged with second-degree grand larceny after, police say, she stole money from Jean Paul Spa in Stuyvesant Plaza.

Guilderland Police say that, from June 2004 until last month, Pitcher stole over $65,000 by altering the bookkeeping at the spa. She was a manager there and had access to many operations of the business, police say.

Pitcher was arraigned last Thursday in Guilderland Town Court before Judge Steven J. Simon. She was remanded to Albany County’s jail and released on $10,000 bail.

Pitcher is scheduled to reappear in court tonight (Thursday).

Caregivers look for spark and sparkle from Cameron

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Diane Cameron, the new director for Community Caregivers, is an optimist.

She speaks with passion and writes with spare elegance. Cameron submitted a column to the Enterprise for this week, published on the opinion pages, so the community could get to know her.

In it, she candidly discusses coming to terms with the deaths of those close to her.

"So the wise men’s lesson," she writes of the Christmas story, "is all about faith: We do our best, we study, we consult with others, we try to be wise men and women, but we have to get on our camels, bring our gifts, and hope we are doing good."

Cameron knows from her own life’s experiences about much of what the Community Caregivers offer. "Some of the services are respite for the end of life," she said. "I’ve done this. I know it’s exhausting. My siblings have all died. I was the primary caregiver...I know what it’s like to just wish you could go to the store or take a shower."

The youngest of five children, Cameron is the only one surviving; her siblings all died in their forties, she said.

She is able to use that experience, though, in a way that is useful and extends help to other. She is also able to revel in and celebrate life.

She is a first-time grandmother. Her daughter, Shannon, gave birth a month ago to her first grandchild, Josephine.

"It’s like falling in love all over again," she said of being a grandmother. "I want the world to be so much better for her...I want world peace."

That experience, too, has shaped Cameron’s ideas on what she can do in her new job. While her daughter, who lives in Toronto, is near caring family and friends, Cameron said, "People think seniors, seniors, seniors," when they think of those in need. But, she went on, "I’ve become aware of all the little ways a young family needs help....

"Sometimes you just need to be able to call someone when maybe it sounds like the baby’s breathing isn’t right. You don’t need a doctor. You need someone who can say, ‘Don’t be scared; they breathe like that sometimes.’"

"A giving-back point"

Cameron has spent a lifetime working in not-for-profit organizations yet she says, at age 53, she feels a need to give back.

Community Caregivers harnesses the energy and skills of volunteers to provide free services for Albany County residents in need. For example, a volunteer may drive an elderly person to a medical appointment or help an ailing young mother with child care.

The agency was originally based in Altamont, is now located off of Route 155 in Guilderland, and will soon move back to Altamont to occupy a former church on Gun Club Road, donated by developer Jeff Thomas.

"A lot of retired people are involved or on the board," said Cameron of the Community Caregivers. "There’s a giving-back point, and I think I’ve crossed into it."

The Community Caregivers has had a series of short-term directors, but Cameron says she plans a long tenure.

Joseph Purcell, president of the Caregivers’ board of trustees, himself a retired educator, said the board is excited about having Cameron as executive director. She was one of 25 applicants for the post, which was vacated by Judith McKinnon after two years.

Cameron will be paid an annual salary of $60,000, which Purcell termed "a bargain" considering her background and experience.

"She has a lot of experience as an executive director and a lot of experience in fund-raising and has been successful at both," said Purcell.

A committee that he said was made up of "a cross-section of people in our organization," including volunteers, office workers, and board members, selected two candidates and then the executive committee interviewed those two and selected Cameron.

"Everyone she worked for talked about her enthusiasm and energy," said Purcell. "She really likes working for a smaller organization. She related really well to our mission...She likes what we do; that’s very important."

Purcell thinks Cameron will have a smooth transition when she starts work on Jan. 9 because of the capable work done by the interim director, Greg Goutos, who was not a candidate for the permanent post.

"In the few weeks he’s been here, he’s done great organizational things," said Purcell of Goutos. "So we’ll be in good shape when Diane arrives. We’re excited about having her come. She’ll put a real spark in the organization."

Helping neighbors

As Cameron talks about her life, it seems as if the disparate threads have come together to form the whole cloth of her new job.

Cameron grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa. in a service-minded family.

"My parents were very involved in the community," she said. "As I kid, I was dragged around when they volunteered."

Her parents were active in the Methodist church food pantry, shelter, and clothes closet — serving the inner city.

Her father was an engineer and her mother eventually became a weaver, giving "sheep to shawl" demonstrations, teaching about the making of cloth from the shearing on.

"One of the things I saw my parents do was raise money," said Cameron. "I could write from when I was very little." At the tender age of 12, Cameron was already helping to compose letters to raise funds for worthy causes.

She learned to write from reading, she said, and has kept a diary since she was six years old. "I must have read about it in Little Women," she said of Louisa May Alcott’s classic.

Always an organized person, Cameron also made to-do lists at a very young age, she said.

She left home for George Mason University, outside of Washington, D.C., where she studied both fine arts and business.

"Those are the two things I cared about and got excited about," she said about her diverse fields of interest.

She volunteered with her college’s theater group and would help apply for grants when needed.

After college, she said, "I got married, I got divorced, life happened."

Her first "real job," Cameron said, was in development in regional theater in Baltimore.

"Development has so much writing in it, that muscle got stronger," she said.

Cameron went on to work for a number of different kinds of non-profit organizations, including a school for emotionally disturbed children and a public school for the arts.

Then, she said, "I fell in love with someone from upstate New York. We were both on vacation in Rhinebeck, the furthest north I’d ever been."

She made the move to be with him; now the couple lives in Valatie. When they leave the house in the morning, they will travel in different directions. Her husband heads south to Hudson, where he teaches psychology at Columbia-Greene Community College.

She will drive 40 minutes on Interstate 90, north to Guilderland to her new job at Community Caregivers.

"I’m blown away by the people at Community Caregivers," said Cameron. "Something seemingly as old-fashioned as neighbors helping neighbors works well and is needed...It’s very inspiring."

Asked about her plans for leading the organization, Cameron said, "My immediate goal is to go with the volunteers, see the program, see what kinds of volunteers we need."

She also wants to work on recruitment, to see "what we can do to get more people comfortable with volunteering."

Cameron said she plans to stay with the program. "My hope is I’ll be here a long time...10 years," she said when pressed for an estimate.

"I’d like to see it bigger, bigger — more regional," she said of long-term aims.

She concluded of the Caregivers’ mission, "In this age when people don’t know their neighbors, they still have it in them...Some part of us still wants to help a neighbor and clearly our neighbors need some help."

Super gets raise: Aidala says he loves his job as problem-solver and facilitator

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Gregory Aidala, who has been at the helm of the Guilderland School District for the past five years, sees himself as a problem-solver and a facilitator.

The school board voted unanimously and without discussion last Tuesday to extend the superintendent’s contract for a year, giving him a 3.5-percent raise, increasing his annual salary from $139,025 to $143,891.

Aidala has a "rolling contract," which includes "an evergreen clause," meaning the board can extend the contract each year for another year. Susan Tangorre, the district’s personnel director, told The Enterprise this week that such contracts are typical for superintendents. "They serve at the pleasure of the board," she said.

Without the extension, Aidala’s contract would have expired in 2007; now it will expire on Nov. 12, 2008, said Tangorre.

There were no other changes in the contract, she said.

Board President Gene Danese thanked Aidala for his hard work in what he termed "arguably one of our community’s most important positions."

"I love my job," Aidala told The Enterprise this week. "It’s very challenging, very difficult at times, but very rewarding."

He said that, although he’s been a superintendent for 17 years in two different districts, he learns something new every day.

Aidala declined to name the number of hours a week that he works but he said, "Here’s my philosophy: I’m usually at work by 7:15. I stay till I get the job done. I often have meetings at night...I could work at my job 24 hours a day...I try to have some life beside school."

Aidala said he is excited about the upcoming holidays and being with his family, particularly because his daughter, who lives in Colorado, will be visiting.

Aidala puts an emphasis on communication. The district’s website allows people to directly question the superintendent through e-mail. Aidala said he keeps his answers brief and tries to respond within two days. The program started two years ago and he received about 50 e-mails that year; the number about doubled this year.

He sends a packet of information to the school board members every week, Aidala said. "A lot of it is like, ‘Where’s Waldo"’ — What did Greg do this week," he said. "The board is interested in the superintendent’s role."

Aidala sees his role as first, a leader; second, a problem-solver; and third, a facilitator, "to move things along," he said.

"I’m not in the trenches day in and day out," he said. "My role is to keep the ball moving forward."

He’s proud of the way he got the middle-school expansion project on track soon after he became superintendent at Guilderland in November of 2005. Plans were underway for the project, but, he recalled, "The board said it didn’t build a strong enough case. They asked me to revise the information. I tried to organize it based on the middle-school philosophy. That was the blueprint for seeking community support."

The $20 million bond issue, for the first renovation and expansion of the middle school since it was built 30 years ago, passed with a solid vote and the project is now complete.

Asked about his relationship with the school board which employs him, Aidala stressed his role as facilitator. School boards are made up of part-time elected members. In some districts, the full-time professional, the superintendent, dominates the board; in other districts, the school board dictates the superintendent’s actions. Neither model applies to Guilderland.

"When the board struggles with issues," said Aidala, "I try to frame it with information to enhance the discussion."

He gave as an example the recent months of discussion on the issue of school security. Parents who served on a subcommittee were adamant, as were some board members, about the need to lock the elementary schools, while other parents and board members thought public schools should not be locked.

"The board looked to me as the superintendent for a recommendation," said Aidala. "I always consider myself an information provider to the board, so they have a good foundation.

"Before I made the recommendation to the board, I tried to say, ‘This is what we know: Our schools are safe; how can we make them safer"’"

He went on, "I feel my function is to make sure the board is well prepared. Once the meeting is underway, it’s their meeting. I’m an advisor."

With the school-security issue, the board discussion spanned two meetings that were two weeks apart. "When I left the first meeting, I wasn’t sure what my recommendation would be," said Aidala. "How do you present it to achieve consensus"" he asked himself.

He ultimately recommended that surveillance cameras be added to the elementary schools that didn’t have them and that the monitors continue to stay in place by the front doors, which will stay unlocked.

He asked for the board’s consensus, "And it worked," concluded Aidala.

Snow days

"Winter is almost officially here," Aidala told the school board last Tuesday. The district had its first snow day on Dec. 9 largely because of forecasts for heavy snow which, Aidala noted, didn’t materialize as predicted.

The decision-making starts at 4:30 a.m., he said, and he has five options to choose from — delaying the opening of school one or two hours, closing school for the day, opening school as usual but closing early, or holding a full day of school but canceling after-school activities.

"These are never easy decisions," said Aidala. He gets complaints from people who have the advantage of hindsight, he said.

Conditions in Altamont or on the shoulder of the Helderbergs can be very different than on Western Avenue in Guilderland, at a lower elevation, said Aidala.

Information on school closings and early dismissals is available on the district’s website, and on local radio and television stations; Aidala said the fastest way to get information is from television.

"If you’d like to take this part of my job, you’re welcome to it," said Aidala.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Heard a request from President Gene Danese to keep comments brief to avoid a meeting like the last one, which he described as "marathon proportion in length."

"Our technical crew has to get home to do their homework," he said of the students who film the meeting for cable channel 16;

— Appointed Linda Bakst to serve as the board’s liaison to the Committee for Special Education. Colleen O’Connell will serve as her backup.

The committee, made up of parents and staff members, meets to decide on educational plans for special-needs students, which the school board approves.

Bakst said she’d like two more pieces of information — that the recommendations are in compliance with the least restrictive environment, and, if there were controversial issues, possibly heading towards litigation.

"We should do what’s best for the child and not worry about litigation," said board member Richard Weisz.

Board member Barbara Fraterrigo recalled how board members used to be given "voluminous" information on the committee’s recommendations.

Board member Peter Golden said he’d like to have a board member sit in on the committee meetings, as a representative of the board.

Superintendent Aidala responded that, with 750 special-education students in the district, sitting in on meetings would not be a productive use of a board member’s time.

Bakst volunteered to meet with Steve Hadden, the supervisor of special education, on a regular basis to review the more detailed information, similar to what all the board members used to receive.

The board will evaluate how the liaison post is working;

— Appointed three board members — Thomas Nachod, Weisz, and Golden — and one community representative — Steven Kozlowski — to a newly-formed audit committee as now required by state law.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders said an additional community member is needed;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress that high-school music teacher Rae Jean Teeter has been named to a state office in the American Choral Directors’ Association; she will serve as New York’s chair for High School Repertoire and Standards. Teeter has written four choral reviews for Teaching Music Through Performance in Choral Music, Volume 2;

— Learned that wrestlers from Guilderland and Shenendehowa raised $1,600 for homeless families in New Orleans shelters. The wrestlers, led by Coach Regan Johnson, collected sponsors and pledges from their families and friends for a 5-kilometer run in Guilderland the day after Thanksgiving;

— Heard that three Guilderland students have been selected to participate in the New York State Honor Bands next March.

Oboist Meredith Hall will perform with the high-school ensemble under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Renshaw of the University of Connecticut.

Two Farnsworth Middle School students — flautist Samantha Crouse and oboist Katie Hart — will play under the direction of Dr. Patrick Jones from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia;

— Learned that Susan Lafond will travel to Lebanon for eight days in January as part of a team to offer training to teachers there. The program is part of the New York State United Teachers Education and Learning Trust;

— Heard congratulations for members of fall sports teams that qualified for Scholar-Athlete Awards: boys’ and girls’ cross-country, field hockey, football, boys’ and girls’ soccer, girls’ swimming, girls’ tennis, and boys’ and girls’ volleyball.

Each team had an academic average of 90 percent or above. Each student on the team receives a pin from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association;

— Learned that Meredith Best, high school art teacher, will participate in the winter exhibit at the Daily Grind in Troy as one of 29 regional artists in the show, which runs through Jan. 30;

— Heard that letters will be sent to PTA’s and to former members of the district’s budget review committee, inviting residents to join a new committee being formed to study alternative sources of revenue for school funding.

Information will also be posted on the district’s website, on cable channel 16, and in school newsletters;

— Reviewed two policies, presented by the board’s policy committee. One is titled "Internet and Computer Acceptable Use and the other is "Alcohol and Drug Testing of Bus Drivers"; and

— Met in executive session to discuss administrative performance reviews and fringe-benefit costs and collective bargaining agreements.

Bryland Homes okayed by planning board

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Planning Board last week gave final approval to Bryland Homes, which will build expensive homes on Frenchs Mill Road.

Bryland Homes owner Bryan Smith applied for a four-lot subdivision of 3.85 acres. An existing home sits on one of the lots. The property is owned by Franz Zwicklbauer and his family, who live nearby.

The property is zoned for local business. Guilderland Town Planner Jan Weston said that the zoning should be changed to residential. She also suggested that the builder protect the tall mature pines which line Frenchs Mill Road.

"We’ll try to minimize any cutting of the trees, and so on. Trees are very expensive," said land surveyor Sang Y. Kim, of Latham. "Our clearing and grading area will be very limited to save those trees."

"I can’t imagine anyone wanting to cut them down," Weston said. "It just would be such a sin if they did come down."

Chairman Stephen Feeney said that the town’s conservation advisory committee said in a letter that the project would have only a minimum environmental effect, if the trees are not cut down.

He said that the board cannot make keeping the trees a condition for approval, but he noted that Kim said that the trees would be preserved.

The board granted approval, pending Kim’s submission of erosion and sediment control plans. The applicant must also pay $2,085 per dwelling for water and wastewater fees.

In-law apartments

The board okayed two separate site plans for in-law apartments.

Feeney told Nia Cholakis, counsel for Rosewood Home Builders, that an annual renewal of a special-use permit is required for in-law apartments. Rosewood Home Builders applied for an in-law apartment at 14 Jean Place.

Feeney said that, after the in-law use is finished, the apartment’s kitchen facilities should be removed.

Patricia Lochner requested a special-use permit for her home at 25 Velina Drive. She and her family installed an apartment 14 years ago, without a permit, she said.

"We didn’t realize we needed it," Lochner told The Enterprise. She said that she was informed of the requirement after she put her house up for sale and advertised the apartment.

She said at the meeting that her driveway can fit six cars.

She told The Enterprise that being caught out now saved her time for when she sells the house and must transfer the deed.

Counsel farewell

Paul Pastore last week served his final meeting as planning board attorney.

"Thank you for putting up with me for six years, and I wish you well," Feeney told Pastore.

Pastore won a seat to the town board in November. He will begin serving in his new position in January.

Pastore praised Weston, referring to a time when she briefly rushed to a board meeting amid a family emergency to clarify information for the planning board.

Pastore said the event was a "small example that typifies her diligence"and dedication to the town."

He said, "It’s truly been a privilege and an honor to serve this board."

Feed fire still smoldering for days

By Matt Cook

GUILDERLAND — A fire has been smoldering in a grain silo in Guilderland Center since Monday. Though it has caused no injuries and little damage, as of Wednesday night, firefighters were unable to extinguish it.

According to Chief Josh Lare of the Guilderland Center Fire Department, firefighters were called Monday afternoon to Building 16 in the Northeastern Industrial Park with a report of strange odors. The 215-foot-tall building houses about three dozen silos containing various grain products used to make animal feed.

While the building is located within the boundaries of the industrial park, it is not owned by the Galesi Corporation, which owns the park, according to David Buicko, chief operating officer of the park. The building is owned by United Cooperative Farmers Inc.

The firefighters weren’t worried about the grain products, but the grain dust is explosive, Lare said.

When they arrived at the silo, Lare said, firefighters smelled something burning and saw a small amount of smoke. They discovered a smoldering fire in a bin on the fifth floor of the building. At the fifth floor, 150 feet up, the silos each empty into bins of eight-inch-thick concrete.

This particular bin was split in half by a steel plate and the fire was only in one half, Lare said.

The fire department attempted to stop the fire by venting the building and emptying the bin, but it caused an explosion, damaging a steel door and lid cover on the fifth floor.

No firefighters were hurt. The two closest to the explosion were sent to the hospital for evaluation, Lare said, but just as a precaution.

After the explosion, the Guilderland Center Fire Department removed itself from the building Monday night and decided to call for help from Albany County, the state, and other local departments. Several reconnaissance missions later, using thermal scanners, firefighters discovered two hot spots in the grain: one on the third floor of the silo and another in the fifth floor bin, on the other side from where the earlier explosion occured.

Firefighters then contacted several people in the silo and grain industry for advice.

"They basically said to put water in there and take the product out, so that’s exactly what we did," Lare said.

As of a press conference at the Guilderland Center Fire Department late Wednesday afternoon, firefighters were still working on the problem.

"We still have some hot spots," Lare said. "Now we have a clog somewhere."

Lare wouldn’t guess when the fire would be completely out.

The danger of explosion remains, Lare said, but, "That has been the danger every year for the past 30 years people have been working there."

The cause of the fire was probably spontaneous combustion in the compressed grain, Lare said.

The closest building to the silo, a garage, has been evacuated, Lare said, but the fire isn’t really a threat to other buildings nearby.

"This building pretty much is isolated by itself," he said.

The Guilderland Center Fire Department has trained for fires like this, but this is the first time it has fought a real one.

"It has probably been the most difficult thing [the department has done]," Lare said.

Two weeks ago, on the third story of the same building, a machine caught fire and was put out by the Guilderland Center Fire Department. Timothy McIntyre, and East Berne fireman who volunteers days for the the Altamont Fire Department, broke his leg when a woman driving a tractor trailer drove over a hose he was hooking to a hydrant. The hose wrapped around the wheel of the truck and McIntyre’s leg, he said, flipping him upside down and slamming him into the truck.

Three juveniles charged in school theft

By Matt Cook

ALTAMONT — The Altamont Police Department used high-tech methods to track down five laptop computers stolen from Altamont Elementary School.

On Tuesday, the police department announced the arrest of three school-age children for burglary and criminal possession of stolen property. On Sunday, Dec. 18, the Altamont police executed a search warrant at a home in Guilderland with the help of the Guilderland Police department. Property was recovered, said Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno. He would not release the names of the three. They were juveniles—under 15—at the time of the crime, Salerno said.

The case has been referred to the Albany County Family Court, Salerno said.

According to Salerno, the juveniles stole five laptops from the elementary school in August.

"They entered unlawfully. It was night," Salerno said. However, he said, "There was no forced entry."

The trio then sold the computers, Salerno said.

The police department was able to locate the computers using information subpoenaed from the manufacturer, Salerno said. When software updates were downloaded from the manufacturer, Salerno said, it triggered a security alert. The manufacturer keeps a database of the serial numbers of the computers it makes and the updates that have been downloaded for them, along with when and from where, Salerno said.

When asked if this sort of investigation is common for the tiny Altamont Police Department, Salerno said, "Under my administration, it is." Salerno took the top cop post this summer.

Salerno didn’t know the juveniles’ motive for stealing the computers.

"That’s a good question," he said. "I know they’ll never do it again."

Altamont Elementary Principal Peter Brabant referred questions to Guilderland School District Superintendent Gregory Aidala.

Aidala said the district has taken extra steps to make sure that a theft like this doesn’t happen again.

"It was an issue for us to make sure the building was secure at all times," Aidala said. The computers were all taken from the same location in the school, he said.

Though he said he didn’t know how the thieves got in, whenever something is stolen, the district examines its security procedures to see what has been overlooked, he said. For example, Aidala said, janitors should be checking school buildings in the summer to make sure every door is completely closed and locked.

Aidala commended Salerno and district technology specialist Joe Lorenzo for helping track down the computers.

"We’re very pleased to get the computers back," Aidala said.

Aidala would not say if the thieves were students in the district. In general, though, Aidala said, if students are caught stealing equipment, "The consequences generally take the form of a suspension as well as the district pursuing criminal proceedings."

Jailed: Kidnapper off to prison for 16 years

By Nicole Fay Barr

ALBANY — Jason D. Kutey was sent to prison Tuesday for kidnapping and threatening his ex-girlfriend.

Kutey held the ex-girlfriend hostage in her new boyfriend’s Guilderland home in June; he was sentenced to 16-and-a-half years in prison.

Kutey’s attorney, E. Stewart Jones, told The Enterprise Wednesday that the sentence is "harsh and excessive."

He says Kutey is a man who never meant to harm anyone. Kutey has psychological problems and was troubled by "obsessive love," Jones said.

The ex-girlfriend said at the sentencing that she never felt threatened by Kutey, Jones said. "She said that Jason needs help," he said.

"He needs psychological help, counseling, treatment," Jones said. "The prison system is not good at providing that."

Kutey, of Latham, pleaded guilty in October to the Guilderland charges. His sentence was handed down this week by Judge Thomas A. Breslin in Albany County Court.

Kutey was arrested for kidnapping the same ex-girlfriend the month before the Guilderland incident. In court papers, police said that, in May, Kutey had used handcuffs to kidnap his ex-girlfriend and take her to Lake Placid.

"I was very scared," the ex-girlfriend wrote of the Lake Placid kidnapping in her deposition. "Jason told me that he was going to kill himself and he wanted me to watch because I broke up with him."

An order of protection was issued for the ex-girlfriend after the May 17 incident; Kutey was then arrested for kidnapping and taken to Albany County’s jail.

A month later, as Kutey was out on bail, he committed a similar crime in Guilderland, police say.

On June 16, the very day he was due in court on the May 17 charges, police say, Kutey held his ex-girlfriend hostage with an assault rifle in her new boyfriend’s home, on Woodscape Drive in Guilderland.

The following week, the 28-year-old pleaded not guilty to the Guilderland charges: two counts of second-degree kidnapping; two counts of first-degree unlawful imprisonment; first-degree criminal contempt; third-degree criminal possession of a weapon; and three counts of first-degree burglary.

In October, however, Kutey pleaded guilty to breaking into a building with a deadly weapon and kidnapping, using the threat of deadly force. At the time of the plea, according to the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, Kutey faced a sentence of no more than 17 years and no less than 15 years.

Although Kutey originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, Jones said Wednesday, he accepted a plea bargain: he received one sentence for both the Guilderland and Colonie charges.

Kutey pleaded guilty because he had no defense, Jones said.

"He did have the gun. He entered a place he didn’t belong with a loaded weapon. He held her hostage," Jones said.

Still, Jones said, Kutey should have received a substantially-lesser sentence. He has a history of psychological problems, but he never intended to hurt anyone, Jones said.

Kutey plans on appealing, his attorney said. Jones is requesting that Kutey receive counseling while in prison, he said.

"No intention to harm"

In June, the hostage situation turned a quiet McKownville neighborhood upside down; over a hundred officers and paramedics swarmed the area.

Albany Police Detective Jack Grogan told The Enterprise after the incident how, after two hours, he got Kutey to surrender to police and let his ex-girlfriend go.

Grogan didn’t think Kutey was a threat to his 19-year-old ex-girlfriend, he said. Grogan actually had to convince her to leave the house, because she was worried Kutey would kill himself, Grogan said.

Grogan spoke to her on the phone and convinced her to come outside. About 10 minutes later, he convinced Kutey to come out, too.

During the dramatic exchange Kutey had with Grogan, Kutey revealed that he just wanted someone to listen, the detective said.

"They broke up and he couldn’t handle it," Grogan told The Enterprise.

"There’s no question the events that occurred were not normal circumstances," Jones said Wednesday. "But, it was not a true hostage situation. He was not someone acting out of intention to harm. It was obsessive love. He had the misguided belief that the could win her back, that taking these steps showed he cared for her."

Kutey has psychological problems, Jones said, so his conduct was abnormal.

"Using a semi-automatic weapon put everyone in grave peril, but that was not his intention," Jones said.

Ex-girlfriend’s account

In court papers, the ex-girlfriend described how, in May, Kutey handcuffed her to his truck and drove up the Northway.

The Enterprise is withholding the ex-girlfriend’s name because the newspaper has a policy of not printing the names of kidnapping victims.

Kutey instructed his ex-girlfriend to place a sweatshirt over their cuffed hands, so truck drivers wouldn’t see them, she said. She was hysterically crying, she said, and Kutey told her to hide her face.

"He told me not to look out the window as we passed other cars so they would not see me crying hysterically," the ex-girlfriend wrote. "He would tell me to put my hand up to cover my face when a car went by. He said to me if anyone sees me crying, don’t do anything stupid because he’ll have to hurt me."

Kutey later stopped at a gas station, unlocked the handcuff attached to his wrist, and locked it to a chain in the truck, the ex-girlfriend said. While Kutey was in the gas station, the ex-girlfriend tried to roll down the window of the truck, but couldn’t, she said. She also tried to move into the driver’s seat, but couldn’t, she said.

Kutey drove through the village of Lake Placid and then down a road, the ex-girlfriend wrote. He took her to an isolated log cabin that he said he rented from a friend, she said.

"Jason took the handcuff off me and he told me if I try to call anyone or run he would hurt me and make me watch him kill himself," she wrote.

Kutey disconnected and hid the phones in the cabin and the two stayed there all night, the ex-girlfriend wrote.

The next day, the ex-girlfriend told Kutey she would give him a second chance. He then agreed to take her back to her car in Latham, she said.

Meanwhile, the ex-girlfriend’s roommate, with whom she was living in Delmar, alerted police that she was missing.

At 10:20 the night before, the roommate wrote, Kutey called the roommate and said that the ex-girlfriend was staying with him for the night. Kutey told the roommate that the ex-girlfriend would call her later, she said.

"I was worried about her and, at that point, it just felt weird," the roommate wrote. "I knew that [name withheld] wasn’t going to get back together with Jason and that she was with a new boyfriend. It didn’t add up to me."

The next day, May 18, the roommate still didn’t hear from the ex-girlfriend. After leaving messages on both the ex-girlfriend’s and Kutey’s cell phones and after visiting Kutey’s empty house, the roommate and her mother decided to call the Bethlehem Police.

As an officer arrived at the roommate’s house, she was able to get Kutey on her speakerphone. The roommate asked to speak to the ex-girlfriend and Kutey said she was sleeping. The roommate said she heard Kutey shouting the ex-girlfriend’s name.

A Bethlehem officer, as well as the roommate’s mother and sister, all wrote similar depositions, claiming this. The ex-girlfriend wrote that she stayed silent when Kutey was on the phone with her roommate.

The Bethlehem officer then spoke to Kutey. He was advised to bring the ex-girlfriend back to Latham Farms, statements say.
The ex-girlfriend said that Kutey told her to "hug him like nothing was wrong," when they arrived in the parking lot. Kutey told her to tell the cop that they went to Lake George to work things out and that everything is fine, she wrote.

Colonie Police did not arrive at the parking lot in time, the ex-girlfriend said. She hugged Kutey, as instructed, and then got into her car and drove off, she said.

On her cell phone, she spoke to police who told her to meet them at Target, a nearby store, she said. She did and that day she obtained an order of protection against Kutey.

Meanwhile, Kutey was stopped at Warren Tire, in Latham.

In an oral admission form, Kutey stated to police, "So who’s pressing charges against me anyway, [the roommate] or [the ex-girlfriend]" That [roommate] is a pain in the ass, she needs to leave us alone. The only thing I did to her was lie to her on the phone and told her that we went to Lake George when we went to Lake Placid, and there’s no law against that."

Later, Kutey told a judge, "I can prove that she was able to leave all day today. We were at least four places that have video. We were up in Lake Placid, we ate breakfast at a diner for about an hour, then we went to a Stewart’s and I was inside and she was outside for a little bit."

[Return to Home Page]