A serial stalker was sentenced to up to 16 years in prison for harassing, threatening and finally abducting a former girlfriend despite having an order of protection to stay away from her.
In asking the judge to consider the maximum possible sentences, prosecutor James M. Marra reviewed the long record of complaints against Michael Reibel.
A jury convicted Reibel, 40, of burglary for breaking into the woman’s home, criminal contempt in the first degree for violating her protection order, plus stalking and unlawful imprisonment.
Reibel went to his victim’s home in East Aurora on July 21, months after the relationship ended and after he had spent the previous months trying to contact her by phone, text and in person. He had instigated an angry confrontation the day before, pounding a car the victim was in and yelling obscenities at her, according to trial testimony.
He would later say he was drunk when he went into the victim’s home while she was sleeping, grabbed her cellphone when she called police for help, used a fake gun to force her into his vehicle and then led police on a chase to Buffalo.
He took the woman to a closed auto shop, where police found her by tracking the phone.
Marra pointed out on Friday that Reibel had other criminal convictions for similar crimes.
“He was on probation for violating a restraining order for a different ex-girlfriend when he committed these offenses,” Marra told Justice Deborah Haendiges.
That case was from 2014.
Before that, in 2010, yet another ex-girlfriend reported Reibel to police because he would not leave her alone after they broke up, Marra said. Four years before that, Reibel was convicted of harassment and driving while intoxicated after he went to still another ex-girlfriend’s house and tried to get her to leave with him. The woman’s father intervened and called police, Marra said.
“The conduct there was eerily similar to the conduct here,” Marra said.
In 2001, Reibel had another case of harassment and aggravated harassment involving a fourth girlfriend who reported that he refused to leave her alone.
“This is not a single, isolated incident,” Marra said. “This is a pattern of behavior over almost 20 years.”
The prosecutor rejected Reibel’s contention at trial and in his presentencing interview that his actions were the result of his drug and alcohol abuse.
“They may have helped the defendant gain the courage to do this, but he made these choices,” Marra said. “It does not matter if he was ordered to stay away. The only way to ensure there is not a sixth victim is a harsh sentence.”
After defense attorney Robert Cutting asked the judge to take into consideration that Reibel is now in treatment for substance abuse, he asked for a more lenient sentence.
Reibel also spoke, apologizing to his friends and family.
“Maybe it’s possible to love someone too much,” he said.
He then tried to address some of his remarks to the victim, but Haendiges cut him off, reminding him that the order of protection extended to the courtroom. He was not allowed to speak to the woman directly.
Reibel then described a traumatic childhood that included his being raped by a female babysitter when he was 7, and his suicide attempt when a former girlfriend became pregnant by another man. He said that after his most recent victim ended their relationship, he “hit rock bottom.”
Haendiges reminded Reibel that he used a five-month relationship with this recent victim as a starting point for months of harassment.
“You engaged in a pattern of behavior that absolutely terrified her,” the judge said. “You sent texts, phoned, showed up at her home uninvited.”
And in his trial, she said, “You essentially admitted to all the criminal conduct you were charged with and then attempted to justify it.”
She called his actions “twisted and unbelievable” and said he was a danger to the community before sentencing him to 12 years on the burglary charge and 1 1/3 to 4 years on the criminal contempt conviction, to run consecutively. One-year sentences for each misdemeanor will run concurrently.
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