NEW YORK » A 24-year-old man who admitted killing four people and wounding four others in a stabbing rampage in New York City last winter was sentenced to 200 years in prison Wednesday as he cackled and insulted his victims, disrespected the judge and insisted he wasn’t the bad guy.
Maksim Gelman, born in Ukraine, pleaded guilty in November in Brooklyn to murder and other charges in a two-day spree that included stabbing his stepfather and two others to death, fatally running down a pedestrian, stealing a car and attacking a subway passenger.
On Wednesday, he got the maximum sentence for each of 13 counts; some of the sentences will run consecutively, resulting in the 200-year term. He was awaiting sentencing on the subway assault, which occurred in Manhattan.
"You are a violent predator and sociopath," Judge Vincent Del Giudice said.
Gelman was unruly in court, fidgeting, laughing, yelling at the judge and the family and friends of some of his victims who came to speak, and had to be removed from the courtroom once.
"I’m not the bad guy here. These people did bad things to me," Gelman said in a rambling statement in which he blamed his victims and also the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, claiming he was a drug dealer who was being followed. "It’s not my fault that all this happened."
Gelman’s deadly spree on Feb. 11, 2011, started with a family argument over whether he could use his mother’s car. He stabbed his stepfather to death in their Brooklyn home. His mother didn’t appear in court Wednesday.
Gelman took off in the car and drove to the home of an acquaintance, Yelena Bulchenko. Bulchenko’s friends have said he was obsessed with the 20-year-old woman and imagined a romantic relationship with her. Gelman claims she was a drug addict who worked for him, and set him up for robbery.
She wasn’t home, but Gelman stabbed her 56-year-old mother to death, then waited nearly nine hours with the body for the daughter to return. When she walked in, he stabbed her 11 times, killing her, authorities said.
On Wednesday, Gelman interrupted Bulchenko’s boyfriend, Gerard Honig, telling him he had fallen in love "with a heroin addict," to which Honig responded, "You can burn in hell."
The two insulted each other, epithets growing louder in the courtroom until Gelman was removed briefly as the men composed themselves.
"No sentence is good enough," Honig later said. "Nothing will bring them back."
After stabbing Bulchenko, Gelman left the home, rear-ended a car and wildly stabbed at the driver, who survived.
Stealing the wounded man’s car, Gelman drove off and plowed into 62-year-old Stephen Tanenbaum, who died from his injuries. After abandoning the car, he later hailed a livery cab and attacked its driver, then approached another car, attacked a man inside and seized the car, police said. Both men survived.
The livery driver, Fitz Fullerton, spoke at the Wednesday hearing barely above a whisper because his voice box was damaged by Gelman.
"I just got caught up in this, this is my like third time ever seeing him and I hope he gets what he deserves," Fullerton said.
All those attacks happened in Brooklyn. As authorities hunted him, Gelman was next spotted hours later on a subway train in Manhattan, where passengers recognized him from newspaper photographs and notified police.
He dashed across the tracks, switched trains and attacked a final passenger before he was grabbed by police who were in the subway car looking for him on the tracks. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to the final attack.
Gelman had previously said he wasn’t guilty, was under medical supervision and his attorney, Edward Friedman described his client’s mental state as fragile.
But given the evidence and a psychiatrist’s recent opinion that Gelman couldn’t argue he was not guilty by reason of insanity, he decided he wanted to get out of his holding cell and start serving his time in a permanent facility and so he pleaded guilty Nov. 30 to all the charges. No plea deal was offered.
"There is a difference between a legally insane mind and a diseased mind," Friedman said. "What Mr. Gelman has is a diseased mind."
During the weekend, Gelman claimed in newspaper reports that he was responsible for six other killings, which Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Taub called an attempt to beef up his reputation as a violent criminal before going to prison and urged the judge not to view the claims as some type of mental issue.
Judge Del Giudice did not, and referred to Gelman as someone who was "crazy like a fox."