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Man convicted of raping girl, 14

James Kobza of Buffalo was convicted Monday of periodically raping and sodomizing the 14-year-old daughter of longtime family friends.

Following two hours of deliberations, a jury found Kobza, 42, guilty of first-degree rape, criminal sexual conduct against a child and child endangerment.

Kobza has been jailed since his indictment in December 2006 shortly after he was found walking nearly naked and possibly suicidal in a Niagara Falls hotel parking lot.

Kobza, of Skillen Street, did not testify or present any alibi witnesses. He was remanded by State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia pending his Aug. 27 sentencing.

Prosecutor Michael L. McCabe said he will urge Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark to recommend Kobza get the maximum 50-year prison term for repeatedly molesting the girl in his flat and in her family's Kenmore home.

During the trial, the victim -- who just completed her freshman year in Niagara County, where she and her family now live -- told the jury Kobza began touching her inappropriately when she was a fifth-grader in Riverside.

By September 2003, Kobza was having weekly sexual intercourse and committing sodomy on the girl, who told the jury she feared him and doubted anyone would believe her complaints because Kobza had been such a cherished family friend.

The jury learned Kobza became the subject of a criminal investigation after the girl's family moved to Kenmore and her grade school principal called Town of Tonawanda police in 2005.

Police were notified after the girl had told school friends about her plight, accidentally blurted out in school that she had been raped and then tearfully told the principal.

An above-average student, the victim has been receiving counseling, the jury learned. Jurors also reviewed an alleged "confessional" suicide note Kobza wrote last year. McCabe said handwriting experts confirmed Kobza had written the note after the criminal investigation picked up speed last year.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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