A man accused of stabbing his stepfather and two others to death, fatally running down a pedestrian, carjacking and other violence in a 28-hour rampage across the city this year unexpectedly pleaded guilty Wednesday.
Maksim Gelman pleaded guilty to murder and other charges in the February spree that stretched from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Gelman had previously said he wasn't guilty. He had been under medical supervision, and his attorney, Edward Friedman, described his mental state as "fragile."
But, given the evidence in the case 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, his lawyer said. No plea deal was offered.
The 24-year-old Ukraine-born man answered "yes" when asked if he understood what it meant to change his plea. Wearing a baggy orange jumpsuit, his hands cuffed behind his back and his hair closely cropped, Gelman brusquely answered the judge, saying "yes," "yep" and "yea," as the 13-count indictment was read aloud.
The courtroom was nearly empty _ only the boyfriend of one of the victims attended, crying silently in the second row. Earlier court hearings had been packed.
Gelman faces nearly 100 years in prison. A sentencing hearing was set for Jan. 11.
"It's quite likely, almost guaranteed, that any sentence I give means you'd never be released from a penal institution while you are alive," Judge Vincent DelGiudice said during what would have been a routine pretrial hearing at state Supreme Court in Brooklyn.
Gelman said he understood. "Have a good one," he said to his lawyer after he was led away.
Gelman's deadly spree on Feb. 11 started with a family argument over whether he could use his mother's car, authorities said.
After stabbing to death his stepfather in the family's Brooklyn apartment, Gelman left in the car and drove to the home of an acquaintance, Yelena Bulchenko, prosecutors said. Bulchenko's friends have said he was obsessed with the 20-year-old woman and imagined a romantic relationship with her.
Gelman first killed Bulchenko's 56-year-old mother, then waited hours for the daughter to return and stabbed her 11 times, authorities said. He then left the Bulchenkos' home, rear-ended a car and stabbed its driver, they said. The driver survived.
Stealing the wounded man's car, Gelman drove off and plowed into a pedestrian, who died from his injuries, police said. After abandoning the car, Gelman 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.
All those attacks happened in Brooklyn. Gelman was next spotted hours later on a subway in Manhattan, where passengers recognized him from newspaper photographs and notified police, authorities said. 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, authorities said. The Manhattan case is still pending.
Police later recovered a bloody knife, three straight razor blades, a paring knife and $932.
According to court documents filed by prosecutors, Gelman told a police officer, "I'll beat this. I'll go to a mental hospital for a few years, and I'll get out on the street again, you'll see."
When asked by police why the four victims had to die, Gelman said, "Because I said so," according to the documents. On Wednesday, his attorney asked for time to do another psychiatric evaluation to prove Gelman needed treatment while imprisoned. The Brooklyn district attorney's office said it would seek the maximum penalty available.
Outside court, Bulchenko's boyfriend, Gerard Honig, said he was just happy that Gelman admitted guilt.
"I just want him to get as much time as he can, that's it," he said.