Student housing burglar sentenced to 5 years

A city man — facing 17 charges, including burglary, drug and weapons charges — was sentenced Thursday in County Court to five years in prison and five years of post-release supervision.

Kyle J. Cobb, 35, pled guilty to felony second-degree burglary in exchange for the sentence. If convicted on the charge following a trial, Cobb could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison with five years of post-release supervision, according to the court documents.

Cobb took part in a spree of burglaries of college student apartments after SUNY Cortland shutdown due to COVID-19 in March, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser, Sr.

Police recorded a dozen burglaries in the city in April 2020 after the shutdown and charged the same defendants with multiple crimes, attributing the rash to bail reform laws that required officers to issue court appearance tickets. Cobb was first arrested for burglary in 2020 on April 28, according to court records. Eight days later he was rearrested for burglary after police found him passed out near the intersection of Rickard and Front Streets with a stolen shotgun and compound bow strapped to his nearby bicycle, according to the Cortland Police Department.

Many of the college students took the time to write to the court and it was clear they were traumatized by the break-ins at their homes, said Judge Julie Campbell. Many of the students also suggested the bail reform legislation led to the wave of burglaries, showing “cognizance of current events,” said Campbell.

The burglaries left the SUNY students with the impression that Cortland is unsafe, noted Campbell.

“There's a perception that Cortland is a high-crime town,” said Campbell. “Many of them had much of their personal property taken. As one young woman put it, half her closet was stolen.”

After her apartment on Owego Street was ransacked by Cobbs, one SUNY senior told police she moved into a hotel “because I did not feel safe staying at my house,” according to court documents.

“Not only did this person or persons break into my house and make me feel unsafe to return there, but they also left it a complete wreck with open food everywhere and made it dangerous to be there with a gas leak,” she told city police in a signed statement. “I am surprised that a fire didn’t happen or something else dangerous didn’t happen to my neighbors.”

The student stated that she had taken her expensive things home prior to the burglary and was shocked at what was taken: her class notebooks and notes, an Anatomy and Physiology textbook, all her clothes except three shirts in the closet, Ramen noodles and other things.

“They stole the most ridiculous but sentimental stuff, like my cross-country awards, shirts for sports that I wore with Cortland State, SUNYAC, CX”C”, or Smithtown High School on them — including shirts that I won or was awarded, and other track stuff — even a card from my grandma,” she told police. “They stole everything they could carry and trashed the house while they were doing it.”

Campbell noted that the crimes were related to Cobb’s heroin and methamphetamine addictions, but also stated Cobb has not been successful in four round of in-patient drug abuse treatment, three rounds of out-patient treatment, two rounds of supported living, drug treatment court and drug abuse counseling he has received for the last 20 years.

“So it becomes a question for the community how much we invest in treatment options over and over again without success. And I don’t know the answer to that question,” Campbell said. “But I do know that this is not an individual denied opportunity at treatment.”

Cobb admitted to Campbell at sentencing that he had made bad decisions.

“There’s no excuse for any of them,” he said. “My addiction was controlling my life.”

Prison will be a chance to truly confront his addiction, Cobb said.

“I’ve had chances and chances,” he said. “(I’ll) work on myself, get to know who I am and be a different person when I get out.”