A persistent violent felon was sentenced Tuesday to 45 years in prison for a crime spree 18 months ago that included two Bellmore home invasions, a brutal assault on an elderly man and an attempted carjacking with a 12-year-old boy in the vehicle.
Nassau County Court Judge David Sullivan sentenced Leonidas Cotsifas, 51, of Bethpage, to 15 years for each of the burglaries and the assault with a paving stone on Ioannis Hilas, then 71, an occupant of one of the homes Cotsifas entered.
"Today we're standing up and taking back the criminal justice system," Sullivan said before handing down the maximum sentence for Cotsifas, who authorities said has been arrested 65 times.
A scraggly bearded Cotsifas, with hair hanging over the collar of his yellow shirt and brown suit jacket, gave a rambling apology that he said he knew would not be accepted. He said he had never been violent before and that he was suffering from the effects of crack and heroin during the Bellmore spree.
"It was almost an out-of-body experience," he said.
But Sullivan said Cotsifas' apology sounded much like ones he had read from records in previous Cotsifas convictions. Moreover, he said, during the trial, Cotsifas blamed the injuries on the victim, Hilas, now 72, saying it was "his fault."
Joanna Nikolis, Hilas' granddaughter, said he still wakes up every morning suffering from the beating, saying he cannot walk and has very little ability to speak. "He says he would rather be dead," she said.
Bernadette Masiello - who was pumping gas and fought Cotsifas when he took her car, which he later abandoned - said her son still cannot talk about those events.
"I hope you can somehow find your way to being productive, [but] I also hope you won't get a chance to terrorize people again," she told Cotsifas.
Jacquelyn Kanopka - who was an 18-year-old college student when Cotsifas broke into her house, stole her laptop and threatened her with a tire iron when she confronted him - said he left her in such fear that she had to drop out of college.
"Hate is not a strong enough word for what I feel for you," she said. "I hope I can sleep better knowing that you will be put away for a long time."