HAMMOND | A former Lake County Sheriff's Department officer told a federal judge Wednesday that he had done his best to be a good person before he was sentenced to two years in prison on public corruption charges.
Edward Kabella, of Crown Point, is the first of three former county police officers to be sentenced for conspiring to use their positions on the department to purchase machine guns and laser sights, meant solely for the use of law enforcement or military officials. The barrels from the guns and the laser sights were then sold for profit.
Kabella, who is required to report to prison March 20, had pleaded guilty to his participation in the scheme in October 2011, along with a charge of underestimating his income on a tax return.
In a courtroom filled with his family members and friends, Kabella told U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen that no one in the room knew how he felt.
“Until you stand in my position for one poor choice in life, you can only imagine,” Kabella said, during remarks where he paused several times to compose himself.
Van Bokkelen told Kabella he betrayed the public's trust. Given recent shootings in the nation, the firearms sold in the scheme could contribute to crimes like that, the judge said.
“End of the day, I have to believe this was simply about the money,” Van Bokkelen said.
At the hearing, Kabella's lawyer, Paul Stracci, said his client had minimal participation in the scheme. Kabella's only concern has been for his wife and daughter, not himself, since the federal charges were filed, Stracci said.
Stracci said Kabella even acted as a father figure to people outside his family, acting as a mentor to Levi Evans, the Lake Central High School student found dead near the school in August. Stracci said Kabella had helped Evans stay motivated in school, and Evans' mother sent the court a school paper where her son referenced Kabella's positive impact on his life.
“He's the kind of dad, frankly, other dads aspire to be,” Stracci said.
Yet, Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson said Kabella's job was to protect the community. Benson said a proper sentence was needed to deter other law enforcement officers from committing a similar crime.
Kabella was indicted along with former county police Officers Joseph Kumstar and Ronald Slusser, both of Crown Point, who also have pleaded guilty.
Benson said Kabella had written a check for the equivalent of five machine guns, and Kabella was involved in the sale of barrels from the guns. The former officer also had obtained some of the laser sights, Benson said.
“That's not protecting the community,” Benson said.