ITHACA, N.Y. — An Enfield man convicted by a jury of pointing a rifle at a Tompkins County Sheriff’s deputy last winter was sentenced to four years in prison Friday.
Kenneth Benjamin, 38, was convicted on Aug. 23 of menacing a police officer, second-degree menacing, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child.
During the trial, Deputy Makenzi Alling testified that she and several other officers responded to a home on Trumbulls Corners Road for an emergency removal of a young child. An argument broke out after the child’s father gave the mother a court order to get immediate custody of the child.
Benjamin, who is related to the mother, went to his vehicle and whipped out a rifle, pointing it at an officer while the father was right behind her. Alling tried to pull out her own gun but cut her thumb on the hood of her duty weapon. Benjamin then ran back into the home while Alling chased after him, pulling out her taser instead of her glock because several children where nearby.
Alling and the two other officers were able to take Benjamin into custody without further incident.
“It was a stressful moment, one of the most stressful moments of my career,” Alling said.
At the sentencing Friday, several of Benjamin’s family members were in court, having written letters to trial Judge Scott Miller attesting to Benjamin’s role in the community.
Defense attorney Lance Salisbury said, “These speak to positive aspects of Kenny’s character.”
He said the charge carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison and a minimum sentence of two years. The range, he said, is permitted so courts could consider the severity of the crime. He reminded the court that the gun Benjamin pointed at the officer was a black powder rifle, meaning it was “essentially unloaded” at the time of the incident.
Salisbury said that fact “doesn’t excuse (the crime) but speaks to its range.”
Benjamin cried as he read a prepared statement to the court before being sentenced.
“I have regrets about…(those) events,” Benjamin said. “I understand it’s too late for that.”
He said he wished things turned out differently that day.
“I’m embarrassed…at the view you must have of me,” Benjamin said. “This is not who I am.”
He asked Judge Miller for the minimum sentence so he could be released back into the community and begin to live his life again with his family.
Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski said, however, that Benjamin’s willingness to grab a gun while a deputy was doing her job is an offense that should be treated seriously by the court.
She said that even in letters written to the court on behalf of Benjamin, family members decline to recognize that Benjamin displaying the gun to an officer was a crime. It’s a sentiment she says is shared by Benjamin.
“Until the defendant recognizes that what he did was a crime, I’m scared…I’m scared for this community,” she said.
Filipowski asked that Benjamin be sentenced to five years in prison with two years of post-release supervision.
Judge Miller said he took the family’s letters and Benjamin’s statements into account when determining the sentence in the case. But he was concerned at the defendant’s lack of apology toward the deputy involved in the incident and his failure to recognize that if the deputy had pulled out her gun, somebody could have died that day.
“I don’t think you’re the sum of the worst decision you’ve made, Mr. Benjamin,” Miller said. “But I have to impose an appropriate consequence.”