A bipartisan group of elected officials on Long Island on Tuesday called on Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature to tighten New York’s controversial non-cash bail law.
While Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, have long made tightening bail laws a top priority in the face of crime spikes, frustrated suburban Democrats have joined the cause, pressuring members of their own party in Albany to address their shortcomings to fix.
“It’s not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s about the safety of our residents,” said Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy, a Democrat and former president of the New York State Conference of Mayors, who attended the Garden City news conference.
Kennedy said too many recidivists end up back on the streets after being arrested.
He said an accused thief was arrested twice in Freeport in two days recently.
The defendant was released from custody after allegedly stealing a car and another vehicle the next day. The suspect jumped into Freeport Creek to try to escape officers, which required the use of a helicopter and other means to arrest him.
“Grand thefts are out of control. Give judges discretion to arrest repeat offenders,” Kennedy said.
“We all need to sit down and amend these bail bond reform laws in the near future.”
Other Democrats attending the event included Village of Thomaston Mayor Steven Weinberg and Nassau County Legislature Denise Ford.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams also said more bail law changes were needed.
Republican Bruce Blakeman, executive director of Nassau County, said elected officials — regardless of party affiliation — have banded together with the goal of “protecting our communities, our neighborhoods and our constituents’ homes.”
“Every part of this state has a criminal pandemic going on that has made us all less safe. If someone comes to your house tonight and breaks into your house because you are at a parent-teacher conference or at dinner, if that person is arrested that night, that person will not be there the next day. ….It’s over and over and over again. This is crazy and we need to stop it,” Blakeman said Tuesday.
“We need the governor and the state legislature to go into session tomorrow. We need them to say and act, that they’re going to stop this madness, that they’re going to lift cashless bail.”
Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly, a Republican who last year defeated her Democratic opponent Senator Todd Kaminsky, a former federal attorney who voted for bail reform, said “criminals are emboldened” because of the lax bail law.
“Extreme bail and investigation laws have complicated the work of prosecutors and law enforcement. I have a hard time keeping prosecutors. You are overwhelmed. More importantly, these changes have made the safety of New Yorkers and Nassau County residents less secure,” Donnelly said.
“We need people to challenge their state senators and state legislators and send them a very simple message: These laws need to be changed today. Restoration of Judicial Discretion. I do not ask for a mandatory deposit in every case. I ask for an opportunity to present arguments if we think bail should be posted in a particular case.”
Zeldin, who has made scrapping the cashless bail law a key element of his campaign against Democratic incumbent Hochul, welcomed the support of local officials.
“Every day is groundhog day in Kathy Hochul’s New York. Time and time again, we see violent criminals being released on cashless bail just to victimize more innocent New Yorkers. The revolving door of justice must end and cashless bail must be abolished,” said the Long Island congressman.
“To take back our streets, judges must exercise their discretion to weigh dangerousness, offense severity, criminal history, absconding risk and more.”
Hochul defended changes to the bail law she pushed for and approved as part of the state budget in April.
“Governor Hochul’s top priority is the safety of New Yorkers, which is why earlier this year she worked with the Legislature to address gun crimes and repeat offenders, and to further expand the types of cases in which judges have discretionary bails.” , said Hochul spokesman Avi Small on Tuesday.
“The governor continues to work with law enforcement and local officials every day to improve the criminal justice system, combat violence, and strengthen public safety throughout New York.”
Her office also pointed to state data showing a 35% drop in shootings in Nassau County, which US News and World Reports named the safest community in America for three straight years.
She previously said bail changes approved earlier this year were hitting the “sweet spot” and that there was no need to review the law again until lawmakers meet in January – after the Nov. 8 election.
The revisions allow judges to set bail in some cases for defendants charged with repeat offences, hate crimes and gun-related charges, and also to consider whether someone’s criminal record is likely to do “harm” if released becomes.
She has also accused judges of misapplying the law.
The goal of the non-cash bail bill, originally approved in 2019 by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat-led Assembly and Senate, was to prevent defendants from being jailed simply because they were too poor to post bail to deposit.
But critics said there were unintended consequences that lawmakers have ignored.
“Some of the lawmakers I spoke to were unfamiliar with the specifics of the bail bond legislation they approved,” Freeport Mayor Kennedy said.
Baxter Estates Mayor Nora Haagenson, a Chartered Independent who is president of Nassau County Villages Officials Associations, said the “seriously flawed” bail law “has been tipped in favor of criminal versus victim” and that lawmakers “must act to fix this.” to correct untenable position.”
She said crime thrives because “no incarceration is expected.”
Legislative leaders, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), have defended bail reform.
https://nypost.com/2022/09/20/ny-leaders-call-on-gov-hochul-to-tighten-bail-laws/ NY leaders urge Gov. Hochul to tighten bail laws