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KOLBERT UPHELD ON DECISION ON WOMAN'S LICENSE

A Cheektowaga woman who accused an acting Depew village justice of abusing his authority lost Thursday in State Supreme Court.

Deebe Sigeti, 29, hasn't been allowed to drive in more than three years. She lost the privilege when she was arraigned on her second drunken-driving charge in October 1995.

In addition, acting Village Justice Thomas S. Kolbert required at her sentencing in March 1997 that she get his permission before reapply for her driver's license.

He's turned her down three times -- without explanation.

If Kolbert doesn't change his mind, Ms. Sigeti won't be able to get a license until after March 7, 2000. That's excessive and illegal, she contended.

But State Supreme Court Justice Rose H. Sconiers ruled that Kolbert was within his rights to impose such a sentence. When Ms. Sigeti agreed to the probation, she should have foreseen that she could be without a license for up to five years, Justice Sconiers ruled.

While the State Supreme Court upheld Kolbert's probation conditions, Justice Sconiers did rule that if he denies Ms. Sigeti permission to apply for her license in the future, he must provide a written explanation of why.

Kolbert usually sits on the bench in Cheektowaga, but he fills in for Depew's justice. That is how he became involved in Ms. Sigeti's case. Throughout the county, he has a reputation for handing down tough sentences.

"We believe at this point that this is a harsh and excessive punishment," said Barry Covert, Ms. Sigeti's attorney. "It is disproportionate to the offense."

Paul D. Weiss, the attorney for Kolbert and the Village of Depew, pointed out that Kolbert could have been much tougher. He could have sent Ms. Sigeti to prison for a year instead of several weekends. Kolbert sent her to prison on weekends for 60 days, required 150 hours of community service, fined her and put her into treatment to get sober.

"It is not unduly harsh. It is not an abuse of power," Weiss said.

But the case is more complicated than a woman getting arrested twice for drinking and driving. Some blame Ms. Sigeti for an accident that took place nearby at the time of her second arrest.

A Depew police officer rushing in his patrol car to assist in her arrest in October 1995 collided with a pickup. The driver, Benjamin Domanowski, 32, was killed. Officer Robert Davis Jr. was paralyzed.

Ms. Sigeti was not charged in connection with that accident.

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