Some NY lawmakers want to overturn ‘bail reform’ to save lives. Their party is calling them “fake Democrats”.

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ALBANY, NY — Just 6 weeks into an already failed bail reform plan, a compromise is being offered and it is not sitting well with some Democrats in Albany. 

And why wouldn’t it upset them?

I mean, they still have a lot of logic to defy. They haven’t even pushed recidivism to 100% yet.

But they have effectively made law enforcement jobs more difficult, streets less safe and left residents of the Empire state scratching their heads.

But there are Democrats on the side of overturning the current reform legislation. 

The other members of their party are calling them “fake” Democrats, saying that the party should no longer provide financial support for those five or six members who support rolling back their newly-passed legislation. 

This appears to be a less-than-subtle reference to the six Democrats from Long Island. Each want to fix the current fiasco of “no cash” bails. They are each also in the middle of a re-election campaign.

Elsewhere, party members cheered the compromise and said the Democrat-dominated Legislature must tackle the issue soon — as part of the state budget, which is due April 1.

According to Newsday’s Yancey Roy, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said it was too soon to make changes, but didn’t criticize his colleagues who disagree.

At issue is a plan offered by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), first reported by Newsday, that would overhaul the law, which took effect Jan. 1.

Basically, it would abolish bail altogether while increasing the types of crimes for which a suspect can be held and increasing judges’ authority to do so.

It would somewhat track the federal system in which a defendant is either jailed or monitored by the court system, or is released on his/her own recognizance until a later court date.

Detention or monitoring would hinge on the nature of the alleged crime, a history of violence and potential flight risk. Judges would follow tight guidelines to make such determinations.

Either way, money for bail would no longer be part of the equation.

Some activists and lawmakers called the notion of pushing such a compromise as a betrayal.

Just last year, they completed a major overhaul of New York’s criminal statutes, which eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.

Changing the law again so quickly — and giving judges more discretion to possibly detain defendants — was unwarranted and would open the door to more incarceration and “mass surveillance,” they said.

Apparently, this batch of left-leaning politicians believe that criminals, even violent ones, should free to wander the streets. 

“We can’t be bound by five or six members who call themselves Democrats, and yet don’t act like Democrats,” Assemb. Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn) said.

“We can’t be bound by five or six members who want to have the protections and resources of fellow Democrats and yet want to take away resources from the communities we represent.”

Those lawmakers “want to take us back in time,” he said, a reference to the Long Island Democratic Senate conference, which has called amending bail laws its No. 1 priority in 2020. One of those legislators rejected the criticism.

“We’re part of this majority. We’ve done a lot to move this state forward. And it’s not just members from Long Island who will support this,” Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Huntington) said.

He said the proposal didn’t represent a rollback so much as a modification.

Some progressives lamented that it’s highly likely that bail reform will be rolled into budget talks.

“Unfortunately now, this is part of the budget process,” Assemb. Dan Quart (D-Manhattan) told more than 100 protesters standing outside the Assembly. “It will be up to us to stand tall … No rollbacks! No tweaks!”

But in other hallways, some Democrats welcomed Stewart-Cousins’ proposal. They said the past six weeks showed the 2019 overhaul had eliminated too many crimes from judicial discretion. Too many repeat offenders were being released, they said.

Too many repeat offenders were being released? You don’t say.

Further, they said the idea to eliminate cash altogether would address the heart of the issue they were trying to solve last year: Bail laws benefitted wealthy suspects who could pay to get out of jail.

“The problem with the old (state) system is people were being remanded on $250 bail because they couldn’t pay it,” said Assemb. Monica Wallace (D-Lancaster), who previously worked as law clerk in federal courts where bail isn’t used.

Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) called the Senate proposal a “step forward.”

“The competing interests here are: Bail is unfair because it benefits the wealthy. And the other side is all about public safety, What the Senate is proposing makes a legitimate attempt to address both sides,” said Thiele, who is a member of the Democratic conference despite being an Independence Party member.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo noted the Senate plan closely resembled one he supported last year, though he stopped short of endorsing it.

Cuomo had recommended eliminating cash bail altogether, but his version was rejected by progressives because it would have allowed a judge to weigh a suspect’s potential “dangerousness” to the community, which they believed would treat minorities unfairly.

Heastie (D-Bronx) has been vocal about opposing any swift changes to the bail law.

He did so again while telling reporters he was concerned about making even more changes that might increase incarceration. He added that six weeks isn’t enough time to collect meaningful data about the new law’s impact.

Asked about the harsh words liberal Democrats had about their moderate colleagues, Heastie said:

“This is a very emotional topic … That’s why I’m saying we should be cautious and wait for data.”

Ummm…Mr. Beastie, maybe you should read LET. We have provided ample amounts of data for you to use in an effort to bring back bail and stop releasing criminals on their own recognizance.

Republicans have very little impact on the outcome in Albany because they are in the minority in both houses. But they have been the most vocal in pushing for repeal of the bail law.

Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) called the proposed compromise encouraging and a “good step forward.” Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) dismissed the plan as “nothing more than a fig leaf to cover for the vulnerable Democrats whose constituents want the mess they voted to create repealed.”

LET has a private home for those who support emergency responders and veterans called LET Unity.  We reinvest the proceeds into sharing untold stories of those patriotic Americans. Click to check it out.

New York City judge slams bail reform: "A significant threat to public safety."

 

One New York City judge is speaking out against the reform that went into effect on January 1, calling it dangerous to the communities it is designed to assist.

He had some choice words to describe the bail reforms laws in the state recently – and none of them were flattering. Bronx Criminal Court Supervising Judge George Grasso didn’t just refer to the reform as a “charade”, but he also described the reform as flat-out dangerous.

Judge Grasso isn’t just some lawyer turned judge, he’s been around the block for some time and knows a thing or two.

After having served as a police officer for over 30 years with the NYPD, he hung up the blues in exchange for the robe that he’s worn the past 10 years.

There was no shortage of criticism delivered regarding bail reform in New York by Judge Grasso:

“It is my opinion that without significant changes, the current legislation will not only be a missed opportunity for long-overdue criminal justice reform, but also a significant threat to public safety.”

York College played host to the event where the judge delivered his thoughts on bail reform. One of the issues that Judge Grasso pointed out was the types of crime where people are set free versus ones where bail can be imposed.

Examples like “forcible touching,” which is a low-level misdemeanor, a judge can impose some sort of bail on the defendant. Yet, possessing or even selling drugs, which are felonies in nearly every case submitted, cannot have any bail set against the defendant.

Judge Grasso remarked on how little judges have power over in New York regarding bail today:

“The scope of removal of judicial discretion on bail matters in this ‘reform package’ is breathtaking.”

During his speech, he noted that absolving judge’s of their discretion on matters related to bail is “dangerous and unprecedented,” and noted that it was time to end the “charade”.

He thinks it’s necessary for state lawmakers to begin holding public hearings on the status of bail reform, and to get some sort of resolution to Governor Cuomo before the end of the legislative session in June.

After delivering his speech, Judge Grasso had spoken with the New York Post stating that he was initially worried about being smeared for his critique against bail reform. Still, despite those concerns, he stated the following:

“I weighed that against my concern for the very severe and potentially long-lasting implications of the legislation. If I didn’t express myself at this point, given the opportunity to…it would be hard to look at myself in the mirror.” 

While Judge Grasso had some pointed words against bail reform in the state, there have been at least two other judges that have also gone against the grain recently.

The first one was Nassau County District Judge David McAndrews, who openly defied the bail reforms laws when reviewing the case of accused two-time bank robber Romell Nellis.

A court transcript of the January 9th hearing in Hempstead showed the judge stated the following to Nellis:

“I don’t want you walking around my neighborhood.” 

Sadly, Judge McAndrews’ move was quickly upended, as a higher-level judge reversed his order and released Nellis with an ankle monitor. Of course, Nellis had wound up cutting off the ankle monitor and going on the run.

Then this past Wednesday, Cohoes City Court Judge Thomas Marcelle decided that he was going to set a $100 bail on Jonathan R. Johnston for allegedly driving with a suspended license.

Judge Marcelle noticed that Johnston had this strange pattern of not showing up for scheduled court dates. After seeing that Johnston had two “failures to appear” linked to an arrest from last September, he said enough was enough.

This was a move that came just days after issuing an order that challenged the reform’s constitutionality. 

Maybe Governor Cuomo should start paying attention to these judges, instead of social justice warriors.

In January, the new police commissioner of the New York City Police Department made it clear that he is not a fan of the Cuomo “get out of jail free” criminal justice “reform” policy.

Dermot Shea said that the new bail reform law that was implemented on Jan. 1, has contributed to an increase in crime in the city, and he is calling for state legislators to fix it.

The reform law, which did away with the need for cash bail for a number of crimes, came about just when serious crime had hit an all-time low in the city, police were making fewer arrests, and the jail population had gone down substantially.

Not anymore.

“…now as you see this in the first three weeks of the year, we are seeing significant spikes in crime. Either we have forgotten how to police New York city or there is a correlation.”

Well commish, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

“If you let out individuals that commit a lot of crime, that’s precision policing in reverse and we’re seeing the effects in a very quick time, and that is why we’re concerned,” Shea said.

Through Jan. 19 of this year compared with the same period last year, statistics show that robberies are up 31.5%, burglaries are up 15%, grand larceny is up 5.6%, and auto thefts, which had been in a sharp decline recently have spiked up 67%. The total for all serious felonies was up 11% year over year compared to 2019.

Nice job there, Cuomo and state legislature.

Put another way, since percentages do not tell the whole story, a total of 233 more robberies have occurred this year compared to last, 159 more car thefts and 125 more burglaries, in only three weeks.

The new law made a majority of so-called “non-violent” offenses no longer bail eligible, meaning criminals have been allowed to walk free without having to post bond after committing robberies, burglaries and other offenses.

Some people have defended the new law, saying it “just took effect.” To that, we say bull crap, and so does Shea.

“People say it just took effect; you can’t have consequences already. Take a look at CompStat (crime statistics).”

“We’re seeing it immediately at the same time you have [state and local jail] populations dropping significantly,” Shea continued.

“Now don’t tell me there not a correlation to that.”

Shea is fed up and rightfully so. He only became the commissioner in New York last month. This week he went to Albany to speak with legislators about his concerns.

The first issue is the one of repeat offenders being repeatedly released, but the second and just as important issue are the new discovery laws, which changed how and when prosecutors must turn over evidence to defense attorneys, as well as contact information for victims and witnesses, which must occur within 15 days.

“The second piece is going to take longer and then it’s going to be a one-two punch as discovery takes hold,” Shea said. “Discovery is going to change how crimes are prosecuted in New York.”

Shea was generally supportive of both parts of the reform law, but feels that it went too far, too fast, and needs to be adjusted.

“Judges need discretion to keep New Yorkers safe, judges need discretion to step in and say, ‘this is the fifth time you have been in front of me in two weeks,’” he said.

He wants judges to be able to use discretion and take into account factors such as the danger posed by the defendant as criteria in setting bail.

“You have to have a situation where dangerous individuals, or individuals that repeatedly commit crimes and victimize people are kept in. And if judges don’t have that ability, I think we’re all in trouble and I don’t think any New Yorker wants that to happen.”

The new discovery law is something that Shea says overcompensated for what was perceived to be an unfairness in the old discovery procedures.

The new law was created to make sure that people accused of crimes had earlier access to information that would be used against them in trial, however “swinging it back 180 degrees the other way and giving everything over immediately is equally wrong,” Shea said.

“When you have instances where witnesses and victims will be afraid to call the police, that is a real problem and needs to be fixed…this is something that affects all New Yorkers.”

As of Jan 1, prosecutors must request criminal history reports from anyone who may act as a witness in a criminal case. This includes firefighters, emergency medical technicians, nurses, or anyone else who had contact with a victim or defendant in a criminal case.

Some fire departments in New York are objecting to that new requirement, saying it is an invasion of privacy.

The law will require that any criminal history information be turned over to defense counsel within 15 days of an arrest.

Of course, first responders and medical personnel are among the first people who have contact with crime victims and defendants, so naturally they will be adversely affected.

In order to request a criminal history report, police will need to obtain personal information such as dates of birth, home addresses and phone numbers from potential witnesses. This has raised concern among first responders and other potential witnesses, fearing that the information will fall into the wrong hands.

In Warren County, one fire department has made the decision not to release personal addresses and phone numbers of its members. Other fire departments are weighing their options. In addition, Glens Falls Hospital will only provide the hospital’s address and telephone number, according to officials with Warren County.

The coordinator for emergency services in Warren County, Brian LaFlure has said that first responders there are angry about what they deem to be an invasion of privacy.

Since many fire departments across New York are volunteer departments, it will create more work for them, and will require dedicating resources to track down information for any personnel who may have been at an emergency scene.

“They’re very upset about it,” LaFlure said. “Some fire departments have taken the stance that they will give out names and that’s it.”

The new requirements, passed by state legislators who are more interested in “feel good reform” than practical solutions have been widely panned by emergency services personnel, town and city leaders, and district attorneys who believe that they will place a substantial burden on resources.

As typically happens, this is yet another unfunded mandate passed on without additional funding from the state.

In one case, leaders of the Chester Fire Department were contacted by the Warren Cunty District Attorney’s Office to provide information for firefighters who responded to the scene of a police pursuit that ended up in a crash in their community where someone died.

The suspect in the case was arrested, and now the prosecution is seeking to obtain background on all the firefighters who responded, numbering more than a dozen. They were unaware of the new procedures and were caught off guard when the information was requested.

Chester Fire Capt. Ralph Bartlett, a retired Warren County sheriff’s sergeant, said he was both surprised and concerned when he learned about the change in state law when New York State Police contacted the department looking for personal information for the firefighters at the Sept 26 accident scene.

Department members discussed the issue, and decided that only names, ranks and the fire station’s address will be released. With that said, the department was researching its legal obligations and will cooperate as needed to make sure the criminal cases are not damaged based on opposition to the policy.

“This is going to create a lot of work,” Bartlett said. “We’re going to have to track who goes on every call and create a document for it.”

The most ridiculous thing about the new law is that most of those subjected to the background check will never be called to testify, yet their information will still be released.

Chester is not the only fire department trying to decide on how to comply with the new law. Both the Bolton and Queensbury Central fire departments’ firefighters are also weighing their options regarding turning over personal information.

At a county fire commissioners meeting, other departments in Warren County asked for copies of the Chester Fire Department’s policy.

Bartlett also said that he had contacted the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, which was attempting to research options for fire departments under the new law.

For his part, Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone understands the objections being raised by the fire departments.

LET has a private home for those who support emergency responders and veterans called LET Unity.  We reinvest the proceeds into sharing untold stories of those patriotic Americans. Click to check it out.

New York City judge slams bail reform: "A significant threat to public safety."

 

He said that while his office is legally obligated to turn over what information it can compile about potential witnesses, those witnesses are not required to cooperate with his agency in providing the information.

“There is nothing in the law that says a witness has to give their address or date of birth,” he said.

Right, until some liberal judge decides that not providing the information is contempt of court and ends up locking up a volunteer firefighter. One can easily see where this can go off the rails.

The big change with this new incarnation of the law is before, only witnesses who were definitely going to be called to testify at a trial or hearing required a background check. Now, it addresses potential witnesses.

So even a tow truck driver who responds to an accident scene could be identified as a “witness” and have their personal information exposed to a criminal defendant.

“The consequence of it was never felt because they generally wouldn’t have to testify, and we wouldn’t have had to turn it over unless they were being called to testify,” said Tony Jordan, Washington County District Attorney. “There is some anxiety about it. Understandably, people are concerned.

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