For sexually abusing two girls, a Fleming man previously convicted of sodomizing a child is headed back to prison.
According to Chief Assistant District Attorney Chris Valdina, Roger Kulakowski pleaded guilty Monday in Cayuga County Court to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual act, a violent felony — one count for each of his victims.
The 60-year-old Fleming man's pleas came one week before he was scheduled to go to trial.
In exchange for admitting he had oral or anal sexual contact with the two children, Kulakowski faces serving five years in prison and five years of post-release supervision.
Valdina said Kulakowski, of 5640 Poplar Cove, had molested the children over the course of several years — starting when the girls were approximately 10 and 11 and ending when they were 16 and 17.
"It was long-term sexual abuse," Valdina said.
David Elkovitch, Kulakowski's defense attorney, did not wish to comment on the case.
If Kulakowski had been found guilty after trial of his original, 11-count indictment, the sex offender potentially faced spending the rest of his life in prison.
The defendant had been charged with two counts of predatory sexual assault against a child, three counts of predatory sexual assault, one count of third-degree criminal sexual act, two counts of third-degree sexual abuse, all felonies, and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.
Acknowledging that some may take issue with the length of Kulakowski's promised sentence, Valdina pointed out one of the main benefits that come with a guilty plea: The victims won't have to publicly rehash in a trial the details of the abuse they endured.
"The kids never want to have to relive this," he said. "If we can get a result that protects the community and spares them that, we do it."
Kulakowski's plea comes 29 years after he was first found guilty of sexually abusing a child — a case that would later draw local and national attention.
In 1985, Kulakowski was sentenced to serve four to 12 years in prison for first-degree sodomy after a Cayuga County jury found him guilty of sodomizing a 5-year-old girl.
The abuse was discovered by the defendant's former wife — who baby-sat the girl — after she returned home and witnessed Kulakowski run naked from their bathroom, leaving the child inside.
According to The Citizen's archives, the woman said the girl told her Kulakowski had been sexually abusing her "since she stopped being a baby."
Kulakowski was released from the Bare Hill Correctional Facility in 1993 after serving eight years in prison. He was rated a level-two sex offender deemed to pose a moderate risk of re-offending.
Then, nearly one decade after he was released from prison, Kulakowski returned to court for a high-profile custody battle.
In 2002, former Cayuga County Court Judge Peter Corning allowed Kulakowski to retain custody of his daughter and her stepsister, then ages 4 and 6 — awarding custody to Kulakowski and his sister instead of the girls' grandparents.
In a controversial decision that drew ire from advocates and made its way into national news outlets such as The New York Times, Corning argued that keeping the girls with Kulakowski was in their best interest.
He said Kulakowski had been convicted based on the testimony of a young child and an ex-wife who may have "had reason to create problems for him."
Corning added that Kulakowski had consistently denied sodomizing the child, even when an admission would've helped him earn an earlier release from prison.
"I am not going to be bullied or affected by advocates who make these assertions without knowing any of the facts," Corning said at the time. "I was convinced and I am convinced that Mr. Kulakowski is not a predator, and not a danger to these children."
More than 11 years and two victims later, Valdina reflected on Corning's custody ruling.
"I'm not happy that you had somebody who was a convicted sex offender being given custody of children, and now he's been convicted of a new sex offense," he said.
Kulakowski, who is currently in the custody of the Cayuga County Jail, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 22.
After he completes his prison term, Kulakowski will undergo a new Sex Offender Registration Act assessment that will reevaluate the risk he potentially poses to the community.