The prosecutor called him "barbaric." The judge called him "a psychopath." And the state prison system will call Joseph S. Holka an inmate for the next 30 years.
That's the sentence Holka received Tuesday for raping a 15-year-old girl, slashing her 12-year-old brother's throat and burning their house down in a night of terror in Wheatfield last March 6.
"There are many nights when I lay awake and I hear the screams of my children, and I was not there to help them," the victims' mother told Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. before he passed sentence.
Holka, 22, of River Road, Wheatfield, pleaded guilty Oct. 16 to first-degree rape and second-degree assault. The most he could have received for those crimes was 32 years, but the terms of the plea agreement gave Broderick a range of 25 to 30 years.
"Your punishment on earth will be nothing compared to when you stand before the perfect judge in heaven," the mother told Holka.
Holka said nothing when given the opportunity to speak before sentencing, but after proceedings ended, he said, "You act like you know me. You don't even know me. I'll see you guys back on appeal."
"Shut up!" a sheriff's deputy said.
Assistant Public Defender David Farrugia asked Broderick for the minimum. "That punishment should be sufficient. Twenty-five years is a long time," he said. But Broderick chose the maximum for Holka.
"His profile is probably the purest example of a psychopath that I've ever seen," Broderick commented.
When court opened, Holka presented a motion he had drawn up himself to try to get his guilty plea canceled on the grounds of ineffective assistance by Farrugia.
Farrugia said he would not adopt the motion, and Broderick rejected it out of hand, saying he saw nothing wrong with Farrugia's work. "You can raise those issues on appeal. Most of it is gobbledygook and has no legal merit," the judge told Holka.
Assistant District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek said, "He deserves every second of the 30-year sentence."
Illustrating what she called the "barbaric" nature of the crime, Wojtaszek told Broderick that the girl was raped four times at knifepoint, twice with her brother forced to watch.
Wojtaszek said that at one point, the girl got the knife away from Holka and tried to run, but tripped as the boy was climbing out of a window to escape.
Wojtaszek said Holka put the knife back to the girl's throat and told the boy that if he left, he would kill the girl. The girl screamed at her brother to leave, but Wojtaszek said he climbed back in "out of love for his sister."
Holka later set the house on fire with gasoline he found in the garage. The victims escaped and were picked up by a passing motorist.
The girl and the boy did not appear in court. Their mother said the girl is no longer in school and was "terrified" that Holka might have infected her with a sexually transmitted disease; that does not appear to be the case. The boy has had surgery to remove a lump of scar tissue from his neck and is being treated for anxiety, the mother said.
The plea agreement had satisfied a second arson indictment accusing Holka of setting fire to another River Road home Feb. 26. Broderick ordered Holka to pay $250,000 in restitution to Merchants Insurance Co. but called the order "an exercise in futility."
The judge told Holka, "I can't imagine how someone could get to where you are in your life in such a short period of time. Maybe it says something about our society today."