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Joe Kaluza opposes appeal of 50-year sentences of 2 who paralyzed him

Published: Thu, October 27, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken



Joe Kaluza is paralyzed from the neck down, thanks to the criminal actions of Taran Helms and Hattie Gilbert.

He doesn’t believe any time should be lopped off the 50-year prison terms they received for shooting and robbing the former KFC manager.

“I can’t get my injuries reduced. Why should they get their sentence reduced?” asked Kaluza, who was paralyzed after Helms shot him.

“Everything that the prosecutors are saying they did, they did do, so why should they get the sentence reduced?” Kaluza asked.

Helms and Gilbert are appealing to have their prison time cut to 23 years.

Helms’ lawyer, Gary L. VanBrocklin, and Gilbert’s lawyer, Kristopher Haines, argued for the reductions Wednesday before the 7th District Court of Appeals, which will rule at a later date.

“I feel it’s very unfair,” Kaluza’s sister, Anna Fitzgerald of North Lima, said of the reduction proposal. “They took Joe’s life the way he knew it, and they’re asking to have time taken away from their sentence,” she said, adding that her brother’s paralysis is permanent.

“What they did was very cold-blooded. They knew exactly what they were doing,” Fitzgerald said of the defendants.

Gilbert staged the car crash that preceded Helms’ shooting and robbing Kaluza on March 24, 2008, on the city’s South Side.

“This is the worst case that I’ve ever had to deal with where someone wasn’t killed in my 36 years as a defense lawyer and a prosecutor,” conceded VanBrocklin, a former Mahoning County prosecutor.

“My client is not well-received in the community, nor is he entitled to much consideration,” Van Brocklin said. He argued, however, that the appellate judges must apply the rule of law to Helms’ sentencing.

The defense lawyers said the attempted murder and felonious assault sentences should merge, as should the aggravated robbery and kidnapping sentences, because the crimes were committed in the same incident.

“It was a continuing course of conduct,” VanBrocklin said on behalf of Helms. “His entire intent from the beginning to the end was to rob Mr. Kaluza of the money of the KFC Co. that he was taking to the bank,” Van Brocklin told the three-judge panel.

Ralph M. Rivera, an assistant county prosecutor, argued, however, that the prison terms for multiple crimes shouldn’t merge because “they were not allied offenses of similar import.”

Rivera said Helms committed attempted murder by shooting and instantly paralyzing Kaluza from the neck down, then kidnapped Kaluza by pushing his car 300 feet from South Avenue onto a side street, and then committed felonious assault by threatening to shoot him again, this time in the head, if he didn’t surrender all the money.

“You have breaks in Mr. Helms’ actions,” Rivera told the panel. “If he committed multiple offenses, and the law says that they shouldn’t merge, then they shouldn’t merge,” Rivera added.

“The kidnapping and the robbery should not be together because it’s two totally different things,” Kaluza, who did not attend the court hearing, said later by telephone.

Former Judge Timothy E. Franken of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court sentenced Helms, 26, and Gilbert, 23, both of East Judson Avenue, to maximum consecutive sentences totaling five decades in prison after a jury convicted Helms of attempted murder, felonious assault, aggravated robbery and kidnapping, with firearm specifications, and Gilbert of complicity to those crimes.

Rivera conceded the four, three-year firearm specifications should merge into a single three-year prison term, reducing the prison time from 50 to 41 years.

If Helms and Gilbert win mergers of the attempted murder with the felonious assault and of the aggravated robbery with the kidnapping, an additional 18 years would be cut from their prison time, reducing their total prison time to 23 years.

Helms is at Trumbull Correctional Institution in Leavittsburg, and Gilbert is at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.


1lefty83(313 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago


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2Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

“I can’t get my injuries reduced. Why should they get their sentence reduced?”

To reduce their sentences would be to legitimize their actions !

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3AtownAugie(794 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Justice will become poetic only when a prison sentence is being reviewed on appeal and a judge can say, "Whoa! What you did to Joe was soooo egregious, we need to ADD years!" (I'll defer to some third-year law school student to translate my "whoa" into legalese.)

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4kensgirl(839 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Van Brocklin staes that his client isn't received well in the community. Gee, I wonder why? These two idiots need life in prison so they can think about their crimes. And Gary maybe you should think about going back to the prosecution side instead of defending thugs for a living. But then again I remember you in the old days when you did work for the prosecution and how you would charge grand jurys. Does 500 police officers standing on the courthouse steps after Paul Durkin was murdered ring a bell????

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5mrblue(1136 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

This is just plain stupid. The judge, whoever it is, should say NO!! They need to serve their full terms. How would the defense attorneys feel if it was someone in their family who was the victim?

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6misslady(20 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Keep fighting Joe those idiots need to rot in jail for what they did to that man Besides those Helms all are trouble didn't the uncle or some family member just get arrested for rape? I say they need to serve the full term

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7pacer(68 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Criminals will continue to commit crime until the justice system makes the punishment fit the crime. Look to Arizona's tent prisons for an example. The prisoners live in tents without the use of air conditioning, gym equipment or other comforts. They do not want to go back there. They will clean up their lives so they can stay out.

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8legend33(169 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Who names their kids Taran and Hattie?
No wonder they grew up like they did! I say fry them

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9Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Taran Helms and Hattie Gilbert deserve no leniency for their dastardly deed . Joe had no foresight of being set up and targeted with the help of a former employee . His life meant nothing to them .



Police Chief Jimmy Hughes and Detective Sgt. John Kelty also said at a late afternoon news conference announcing the arrests that they probably meant to kill Joseph Kaluza, 42, but instead paralyzed him after he was shot in the neck.

‘‘I personally believe it was part of the whole plan to not leave a witness,’’ Hughes said.

Police say Gilbert followed Kaluza as he left the Indianola Avenue Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and rammed his car at South and Hilton avenues. As Kaluza called police about the accident, Helms sneaked up on him, shot him in the neck and took $300 from his van, police claim.

‘‘There was no warning,’’ Kelty said.

‘‘There was nothing he (Kaluza) could have done,’’ Hughes added.

Hughes said a member of Gilbert’s family once worked at the restaurant, and the couple planned the robbery. Hughes said they rehearsed it three or four times before pulling it off.


Gilbert was being evicted from her apartment and needed the money, so she planned the robbery, according to trial testimony. Helms' mother worked at the restaurant before being fired for theft and knew the deposit routine, prosecutors said.

Franken said he held each defendant equally responsible. He said Helms meant to kill Kaluza and pointed to testimony by a witness who saw a gunman later identified as Helms run up to Kaluza's van never breaking his stride.

''You never said give me the money. You shot the man first,'' Franken said.

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10CantStandYa(201 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

These two people should be in the ground. Period. If they let them out it is a FACT that they will add nothing to society except perhaps another crime against it.

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11ReadBetweenTheLines(3 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I'm all for reducing their prison sentences.

But only on one condition: Mr.Kaluza or somebody close to him gets to shoot and paralyze both of them first.

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12MARGEOMATIC(128 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

whats with the mother helping the kids plan the attack- THey all need to fry.

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13kensgirl(839 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Why don't we put VanBrocklin in the same cell as they two morons? That way justice will REALLY be served!

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14Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Unreal! These 2 useless animals need to be six feet under not looking at reduced sentences. What in the world is this country coming to. Pitiful these 2 useless animals are only serving 41 years for what they did to another human being. smh at stupidity.

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15Education_Voter(951 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Please parole board, don't unleash these soulless animals on any neighborhood.

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16What_the_Heck(34 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Sure, reduce their sentence, as soon as these two clearly useless waste of human flesh figure out how to un-paralyze the innocent working man that they would have gladly murdered for KFC's money.

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17walter_sobchak(2252 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

commoncitizen has it correctly. The attorneys are court-appointed and court-paid. They make their buck arguing such nonsense and the taxpayer gets stuck holding the bill. These two worthless shreds of human debris need to serve every day of the rest of their lives in maximum security.

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18Askmeificare(803 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

These pieces of trash should fry for their actions AND their family should be "interviewed" to see if charges should be applied to them as well for enabling a criminal environment and more.

The three judge panel must take the victims' statement into account.

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19southsidedave(5119 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Keep this scum locked up for a long time and away from innocent members of our society trying to earn a decent living.

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20thankgod4god(1 comment)posted 3 years, 10 months ago


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21misslady(20 comments)posted 3 years, 10 months ago

Thankgod4god it's mighty funny how your name up in the media after you had goteen fired they just couldn't prove you had something to do with it. As a mother how could you even discuss something like that with your child is that god? But like you said only God can judge.

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