Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz on Tuesday told the man who broke into his parked vehicle and his Buffalo home last summer while he slept that he hopes he can turn his life around.
The county executive, who spoke before Avello Pena was sentenced to eight years in prison for the burglary, noted that the 23-year-old defendant still has most of his life before him.
“I hope he thinks about where he wants his life to go,” Poloncarz told Erie County Judge Michael L. D’Amico, noting that many people are able turn their lives around after they get out of prison.
Poloncarz said the county spends a lot of money on incarcerating people but also provides funding for education and training programs to help people get jobs.
Pena, of Richmond Avenue, pleaded guilty in December to second-degree burglary and petit larceny. He admitted taking money and a baseball bat from the vehicle and then entering Poloncarz’s Delaware Avenue residence, armed with the bat, at about 5:30 a.m. June 17.
The county executive said he was awakened by the sound of someone breaking in, called police and then yelled twice at the burglar to get out of his house. The burglar fled with the bat. Police saw Pena running with the bat and arrested him a short time later.
Poloncarz said he was initially angry about the burglary and had a home security system installed.
“But you can never get back the feeling you had before the sanctity of your home was violated,” he told the judge.
Noting that Pena entered the home with the bat he took from the county executive’s car, Poloncarz said that fortunately Pena never had the opportunity to use it against him. “This is a serious crime,” he said. “It could have been worse for both of us.”
He urged Pena to consider what he had done and to realize that the mistake he made that morning was not the fact that he had been caught but the fact that he had broken into his home.
After the sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Paul Parisi returned the bat and other items taken in the burglary to the county executive outside the courtroom.
Pena’s attorney, Frank L. Bybel, asked the judge to impose the minimum prison sentence of seven years. Nobody was attacked during the break-in, and Pena realizes he made a mistake, Bybel said.
Pena apologized to the county executive and thanked him for “his elegant words.”
He said that at the time of the crime, he was on his way home but didn’t know where he was. Prosecutors said witnesses indicated that Pena had been drinking that morning.
“I am ready to change my life and get through my vices and become a contributing member of society,” Pena told the judge.
D’Amico said burglaries normally don’t get a lot of media coverage but are serious crimes. “You invaded someone’s home,” he told Pena. “That’s a violent crime.”
D’Amico sentenced Pena as a second violent felony offender, noting that he was convicted in 2011 of second-degree assault for shooting someone in the back and that he had fought with police as they arrested him in the Poloncarz burglary after a foot chase.
Pena had faced a maximum prison term of 15 years.
Outside the courtroom, Poloncarz said he was satisfied with the eight-year prison sentence, given the sentencing range of seven to 15 years.