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Man guilty in sex attack of then-wife

An Eden man was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting his estranged wife two years ago while the couple was going through a divorce.

Daniel Pruchnicki Jr., 29, was found guilty of attempted rape, sex abuse and child endangerment following a weeklong nonjury trial before State Supreme Court Justice Deborah A. Haendiges.

Pruchnicki had denied molesting his now-former wife, Jennifer, when he picked up their daughter for a visit July 23, 2007.

Pruchnicki, who had been free on bail until Friday, was taken into custody pending sentencing March 25.

Pruchnicki faces a minimum prison term of 3 1/2 years, but trial prosecutors said they will urge the maximum-allowable 15-year prison term.

Pruchnicki, of Church Street, Eden, was accused of attacking his estranged wife in her Hamburg home after leaving their then-2-year-old daughter in his car.

The couple, who were married five years, had been living apart since November 2006 and were in the process of finalizing their divorce when the assault occurred, prosecutors Rachel L. Newton and Hope R. Jay said .

As Pruchnicki's parents both quietly wept in the courtroom, defense attorney James M. Shaw unsuccessfully urged the judge to let his client report for jail Monday so he could have one last court-approved visit with his now-4 1/2 -year-old daughter this weekend.

Shaw also stressed that Pruchnicki's father is severely ill with a breathing disorder. But the trial prosecutors objected to a delay in the defendant's jailing.

Jennifer Pruchnicki, now 31, testified that her estranged husband followed her up to her apartment when she went to get a doll for their daughter, who was left in his car.

She said he knocked her to her living room floor and was sexually molesting her when he heard her mother drive into the driveway, and he left with the Minnie Mouse doll.

She testified that when Pruchnicki returned their daughter later that day, he apologized and asked her not to tell anyone.

Prosecutors said Jennifer Pruchnicki lodged a criminal complaint with the Hamburg village police, and Pruchnicki was charged.

Shaw challenged the credibility of Jennifer Pruchnicki, whose divorce was finalized two months ago.

Taking the stand in his defense, Pruchnicki denied molesting his wife, insisting he had waited downstairs until she brought down the doll for their daughter.

Testifying in her nephew's defense, Katherine Jank, a registered nurse at the Hamburg nursing home where Jennifer Pruchnicki works as a certified nurse's aide, said Jennifer has a reputation there as a liar and was investigated for child abuse by Erie County government.

However, prosecutors established that the child abuse complaint lodged against her was filed with the Erie County Child Protective Services agency after she lodged the complaint against her estranged husband.

Haendiges in September 2007 imposed a 50-year prison term on Anthony T. Woods, of Buffalo, on his conviction as the first husband in Erie County convicted of raping his wife since the state's high court struck down the marital exemption to rape in another Buffalo case in 1994.

Woods, 44, is currently serving his prison term in the state's Elmira Correctional Facility.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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