Accomplice's appeal rejected in Kaluza case

Staff report


The 7th District Court of Appeals declined this week to reconsider an earlier decision that rejected the appeal of a woman who was sentenced to 50 years in prison for her role in the March 2008 robbery that left a restaurant manager paralyzed.

The court said in a ruling filed Tuesday that it was denying the request by Hattie Gilbert to merge her convictions for complicity to commit felonious assault and complicity to commit aggravated murder into one charge for sentencing purposes.

Instead, the appeals court said in its ruling that Gilbert did not raise any new issues to ask the court to reconsider, and instead wrote that her lawyers disagreed with the court’s opinion, which “is not valid basis for granting reconsideration.”

Gilbert, 26 and Taran Helms, 28, were each sentenced to 50 years in prison for the March 24, 2008, robbery of Joe Kaluza, South Avenue Kentucky Fried Chicken manager.

Police said Gilbert staged an accident with Kaluza as he was on his way to deliver proceeds from the restaurant to a bank, and Helms shot him in the neck, then pushed the car away and threatened to shoot him again before taking the deposit bag from Kaluza.

The court denied her appeal in 2012 and reaffirmed four consecutive sentences for the charges of aggravated robbery, kidnapping, complicity to commit felonious assault and complicity to commit aggravated murder. It did, however, order that her four firearms specifications for those crimes be merged into one and she was resentenced.

Helms had a similar decision in his appeal and nine years were shaved off both of their sentences last March.

The judges who decided the request for reconsideration were Cheryl Waite, Gene Donofrio and Joseph Vukovich.

Kaluza has been paralyzed from the neck down since the shooting.

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