Here’s your ‘jail reform’: New York City judge orders accused Jewish center vandal to be freed

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NEW YORK CITY, NY – On the evening of May 2nd, a Bronx judge had ordered that the alleged vandal of the Riverdale synagogue be released from custody after reversing a previous decision from a different judge that held the suspect in custody on $20,000 bail.

May 2nd turned out to be a relatively busy day for 29-year-old Jordan Burnette, the man allegedly behind an 11-day crime spree that included the vandalism of the Riverdale synagogue.

With respect to the synagogue vandalism, Burnette had allegedly shattered the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale’s windows, vehicle windows parked nearby, and doused prayer books in hand sanitizer before discarding them in the woods nearby.

Initially on May 2nd, Burnette stood before Judge Louis Nock regarding the 42 charges he is facing in connection with this alleged crime spree.

Judge Nock had decided to set Burnette’s bond at $20K, with prosecutors actually protesting Judge Nock trying to impose bail on Burnette. Assistant District Attorney Theresa Gottlieb told Judge Nock the following during the hearing:

“Given the number of attacks, we probably would have asked for substantial bail before January of 2020… The legislature did not include hate crimes in its revision of bail reform and, under the law as it exists today, this is not eligible. We will not violate the law.”

Apparently, Judge Nock disregarded those sentiments and imposed bail.

The rationale, according to the judge, was he believed that the “shattering of glass,” that was allegedly committed by the defendant during the vandalism of the synagogue falls in line with a violent felony.

Then, hours later on May 2nd, Burnette was brought before another judge who removed the bail established by Judge Nock and saw the defendant cut loose.

Judge Tara Collins had granted Burnette a supervised release without having to post bail.

While there has yet to be an official statement released regarding the matter, it’s presumably linked to adherence of the bail reform laws instituted in January of 2020.

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Back in March, we at Law Enforcement Today shared a report regarding how the local police union in New York City feels bail reform is impacting increased crime levels. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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NEW YORK CITY, NY – While in the midst of looming police reform slated for the NYPD, law enforcement unions are asking lawmakers to take another look at bail reform to address the rising violent crime within New York City. 

Family members of the victims of gun violence stood beside representatives of law enforcement unions earlier in March to address rising violent crime within New York City. 

Brandon Hendricks and Shamoya McKenzie are among the young victims of senseless gun violence in New York City – which their mothers shared their heartache of losing their children at such young ages.

Eve Hendricks spoke about her 17-year-old son’s passing, who was a rising basketball star who was slated to play ball at St. John’s University in the fall of 2020, but was killed on June 29th while attending a friend’s birthday barbecue party: 

“My son deserved to live, deserved to live his dreams.”

The mother of Shamoya, Nadine McKenzie, recollected the murder of her 13-year-old daughter who was killed on December 31st of 2016 while she was coming home from basketball practice: 

“Shamoya was just 13 years old and, we were coming from basketball practice…she got shot by a stray bullet.”

Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, pointed the proverbial finger to bail reform, saying that there needs to be “legislation that will permit judges to keep criminals carrying illegal guns in custody.”

While police unions are pushing to have lawmakers review bail reform, details regarding the second phase of reforms slated for the NYPD were announced on March 12th. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, outlined the key areas associated with the reforms, which include decriminalization of poverty, increased transparency & accountability, and what was coined as community representation. 

The aspect related to community representation refers to NYPD officers actually living in the city which they serve. 

During the recent press conference in relation to rising gun violence in the city, PBA President Patrick Lynch explained that only 60% of NYPD officers actually reside in New York City. 

When explaining as to why that is the case, Lynch stated that many NYPD officers simply cannot afford to live in New York City: 

“Sixty percent of our members live in the confines of New York City. Why do they move out? Because they can’t afford to live in the city that we serve.”

Considering that police reform within the NYPD is inevitable in order to abide by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order delivered during the summer of 2020 (which mandates that police departments must adopt reforms by April 1st, 2021), DiGiacomo says the unions would like a “seat at the table” to discuss the upcoming reforms. 

Apparently, police unions have yet to be invited to this proverbial “seat at the table” – which PBA President Lynch believes is something that is long overdue: 

“Let’s have the discussion, a real discussion. Stop demonizing us for the job that we do.”

Back in February, we at Law Enforcement Today shared some concerning statistics regarding the impacts of bail reform as it relates to defendants making their scheduled appearances for court. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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BUFFALO, NY – The impact of bail reform in New York has recently revealed some concerning numbers, in that nearly one-third of defendants issued appearance tickets wind up missing their scheduled court appearances.

Law enforcement officials and legal experts recently weighed-in on what bail reform looks like after having it as a reality for over one year.

Samuel Davis, who is an attorney and of-counsel at The Dolce Firm, feels that bail reform was something that needed to be addressed and implemented before it came into reality in the onset of 2020. But even he noted that the execution of bail reform, “shook the system”.

Buffalo Police Deputy Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia is aware of what the intended spirit of bail reform was meant to address, saying the following:

“The last thing you want is somebody arrested on some non-violent property type crime, who’s not a repeat criminal, and sitting in the holding center, because they can’t come up with $1,000, or even $100. That’s just not necessary.”

Yet, looking back at how bail reform actually came to be, Deputy Commissioner Gramaglia is well aware of the prevalent flaws that can lead to some serious issues within the community, saying:

“We’ve seen repeatedly defendants arrested multiple times with pending gun cases where our officers are out there, putting their lives at risk, arresting individuals – violent felons with guns again and again.”

Defendants facing gun-related charges in the era of bail reform has been one of the topics hosting the highest contentions. Deputy Commissioner Gramaglia stated that judges handling some of these cases are being far too lenient on bail amounts:

“The problem that we’re seeing repeatedly is judges giving very low bail and in some cases, no bail.”

The new procedures surrounding bail reform within New York, with several offenses that would’ve previously prompted for defendants to have a bail hearing before a judge, are now simply being cited with court appearance tickets and the defendants are set free.

Deputy Commissioner Gramaglia commented on that saying:

“When they’re picked up on that warrant, if it was a qualifying offense to begin with, they have to be released. The judge cannot set bail, they have to walk out the door.”

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn noted that while it’s been a year since bail reform was enacted, it’s still unclear as to the exact degree that the released defendants are contributing to the likes of violent crime, saying:

“The reality of the situation, okay, is that we, meaning the police, don’t really know if it’s a concern. Because the majority…of the homicides, and the non-fatal shootings are unsolved. I don’t know who did it. So if the guy is out on bail and he did it I might not know.”

Despite there being a lack of quantifiable data to examine in order to understand to what degree bail reform is impacting violent crimes, Erie County DA Flynn is nonetheless frustrated that his office can’t even entertain the possibility of requesting bail amounts for certain alleged offenders.

He stated:

“[Before the enactment of bail reform] I told all my assistant DAs, ‘Listen here, from now on, don’t ask for bail on any misdemeanors or non violent felons, unless there’s a darn good reason.’ And, the problem is now with the bail reform is that there’s no longer that darn good reason “John Flynn” category.”

But what can be measured, data-wise, is the ratio of appearance tickets issued versus defendants appearing in court. In Erie County and the state courts in 2020, out of the 4,347 people issued appearance tickets for court, 1,339 defendants didn’t show up to their first court date.

That’s nearly a third of all defendants.

And judges can apparently only issue warrants for failure to appear on desk tickets if a defendant misses two court dates. Reportedly, 570 warrants were issued in 2020 for failure to appear in court under desk tickets.

But even when these sort of failure to appear warrants get issued, Deputy Commissioner Gramaglia said there’s not nearly enough “manpower” to just go rounding up these individuals with warrants:

“We certainly don’t have the manpower to go out looking for every single warrant that’s been issued, you know, through Buffalo City Court. But, there are obviously certain levels of crimes, very higher level, violent crimes and things of that nature that we absolutely will send people out for.”

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