YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A judge in Hackensack today sent a Fort Lee ex-con towing operator for 13 years, with no parole eligibility for eight, for a cache of illegal weapons found in his home during a domestic violence check.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi also fined Konstadin “Dean” Bitzas $10,000 as part of a sentence that the defense attorney criticized as “very heavy-handed.”
Jurors in Hackensack convicted Bitzas in August of owning five weapons, large-capacity magazines, and ammunition that he was prohibited from having because he has a conviction for cocaine possession on his record.
Bitzas, who has a 25-year history of arrests for crimes that include burglary and theft, beginning in 1984 when he was 15, insisted the weapons were planted.
Despite being convicted, he still refuses to take responsibility for them, Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Vered Adoni said.
In his pre-trial sentencing interview, Bitzas told the probation officer he has a right to bear arms, and that most of his arrests were “trumped-up charges by the state police,” the result of “a corrupt political system” and “a jealous girlfriend,” she told the judge.
Bitzas was arrested after his girlfriend of the time, Peggy Kalfaian, accused him of domestic violence. When police searched his home, as required by state law, they found the cache of weapons — which he said she deliberately put there.
Bitzas claimed they belonged to former boyfriend of Kalfaian’s who he said is now in prison in New York.
The domestic violence portion of Bitzas’s trial was severed and dismissed by the judge after Kalfaian repeatedly defied instructions from the judge and prosecutor not to make incriminating remarks about drug use while testifying ( SEE: Gun trial shocker: Judge dismisses domestic violence charges against Fort Lee businessman after ‘victim’ misbehaves ).
The case had other strange developments, including DeAvila-Silebi accusing Bitzas of keeping the case file from his attorney in a deliberate attempt to delay his trial ( SEE: Judge accuses Fort Lee man in gun case of keeping trial file from lawyer ).
This came after Bar-Nadav requested a psychiatric evaluation for his client ( SEE: Lawyer seeks psych exam for Fort Lee ex-con towing operator charged with threatening girlfriend with gun ).
DeAvila-Silebi today said she was sentencing Bitzas to:
- 10 years for possession of an assault rifle, a weapon that she said is “illegal in New Jersey and has no purpose other than violent crime,” with no parole eligibility for five years;
- 18 months each on five of 4th-degree weapons possession convictions, with no parole eligibility;
- 18 months each on two convictions for having high-capacity ammunition magazines, also with no parole.
With concurrent terms for some of the sentences, the total to 13 years — which defense attorney Ron Bar-Nadav called “very heavy-handed.”
“I don’t think the [certain persons] law was fairly applied,” Bar-Nadav told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “He had a conviction over 20 years ago for simple possession of cocaine. That shouldn’t bar you from owning weapons for life.”
“He never used them, and there was no harm contemplated.”
Bar-Nadav said when Bitzas was on probation before, and he did very well. An old charge of burglary and theft, he said, arose from a dispute over a car he towed off the highway, at the direction of the driver, who subsequently refused to pay the fee. He took the vehicle to an impound yard, and six months later was arrested.
Bitzas declined the opportunity to speak.
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