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Crack addict gets 20 years for assault

A Town of Tonawanda man was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison for what Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio labeled "a textbook example" of the horrors of drug abuse.

Benjamin M. Kozak, 26, who was addicted to crack cocaine, pushed a 79-year-old man down the basement stairs of the victim's Grosvenor Road home April 24. He pleaded guilty to a first-degree assault charge Sept. 7.

Kozak, who terrorized other elderly Town of Tonawanda residents in a bid to obtain money to feed his drug habit, forced his way into the Grosvenor Road home of an elderly couple who used to hire him for yard work, prosecutors said. At the time, his drug suppliers were outside the house demanding money, they aded.

Kozak read a statement of apology to his victims and "the community."

This kind of crime "cannot be tolerated," DiTullio said.

A daughter of the victim told the court that her father, who was hospitalized for months in the trauma unit of Erie County Medical Center, is still unable to speak and cannot walk without assistance. She added that since the attack, even a minor illness, such as a cold, is considered a threat to his life.

She said her 76-year-old mother, who suffered a heart attack as Kozak pushed her husband down the basement stairs and stole his wallet, spends her days caring for her husband.

Kozak robbed her parents of a happy retirement, said the daughter, who was not identified at the request of the court.

Prosecutor Thomas M. Finnerty said Kozak, of Burns Court, has two previous drunken-driving convictions.

Had Kozak'svictim died of his injuries, Kozak would have faced a murder indictment. His pretrial plea was to the highest level of criminal conduct for which he could be accused, Finnerty said.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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