Prompted by a wave of bad press and public outcry, Gov. Cuomo, NYC Mayor de Blasio, and other Democratic leaders now look to change a new reform bill that has proved to be a national embarrassment for the entire state
One week after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) made declaring war on $30 Domino’s pizzas his first priority of the new year, he finally got back to the priorities that matter more to New Yorkers.
So, too, has New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
It took community backlash, national ridicule, and alleged criminals being released over and over again even before the law went into effect for both Cuomo and de Blasio to learn that the state’s new bail reform policy is terrible news for law-abiding citizens and good news for repeat offenders.
In separate remarks given during recent public appearances, two of New York’s most well-known Democrats have indicated they want changes made and that the state legislature needs to act.
A massive march against hate, the terrifying rise of anti-Semitic attacks, and the specter of the perpetrators of the attacks released without bail to strike again are all factors apparently forcing Cuomo to open the door to reforming the state’s new criminal justice reform laws.
“We’re going too work on it because there are consequences we have to adjust for,” Cuomo said.
The governor told a group of the city’s movers and shakers at the Association for a Better New York that he will work with the Legislature to revamp the law.
“There’s no doubt this is still a work in progress, and there are other changes that have to be made,” Cuomo said.
The New York Post reported that Mayor de Blasio himself stepped in on one high profile case to make sure alleged anti-Semite and repeat offender Tiffany Harris wasn’t released onto the streets a third time in less than two weeks:
Mayor Bill de Blasio intervened in the prosecution of an accused anti-Semitic attacker — leading to her lock-up in a psych ward — because she was generating negative publicity for his administration, The Post has learned.
Brooklyn’s supervising judge was forced to hold an unscheduled hearing late on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve after City Hall contacted the state Office of Court Administration about Tiffany Harris, 30.
Harris’ repeated release from custody after back-to-back arrests late last month — including for allegedly slapping three Orthodox Jewish women and shouting “F-U, Jews!” on Dec. 27 — had made her a symbol of revolving-door justice amid the state’s new bail reform law and de Blasio’s gift programs for newly released jail inmates.
The mayor has signaled that he, too, is on board with revising the new bail reform policy. It’s unclear, however, if his demand for change includes revisiting his own policy regarding department store/restaurant gift cards, Mets tickets, and cell phones being offered to entice accused criminals to show up for their scheduled court dates.
Prosecutors, judges, the law enforcement community and local officials in cities across the state all made it clear for months they weren’t happy with the law, which Cuomo touted on his website back in March:
Criminal Justice Reform: New York continues its commitment to a fairer criminal justice system with the inclusion of the following reforms in the FY 2020 Enacted Budget:
Reforming Bail and Pretrial Detention Reform: As part of a groundbreaking plan to modernize New York’s bail system, cash bail will be eliminated for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, alongside a new requirement that police officers must issue desk appearance tickets to most people charged with misdemeanors and Class E felonies, rather than making a custodial arrest. Together, these reforms will ensure approximately 90 percent of people charged, but not yet convicted of a crime, are not sitting in jail awaiting trial solely because they do not have the economic resources to meet bail.
There’s also another troubling part of the criminal justice reform package that hasn’t received much press:
Revisions in discovery procedure mean that defendants now free on no-bail will be told where key witnesses against them live; it takes little imagination to see where that will lead: Look for witness shortages, one way or another.
Cuomo said in his announcement that “the legislation will ensure that victims and witnesses are protected from intimidation and other forms of coercion” during the discovery process. Still, NYPD’s deputy counterterrorism chief John Miller didn’t sound so sure when he discussed the reforms over the summer:
Miller also criticized the reform’s change to the trial discovery process. Three weeks after an arrest, prosecutors would be required to hand over all evidence, including victim and witness information, which Miller believes would put them at risk.
With Cuomo, de Blasio, and Democratic leaders in the state legislature—including Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins—now stating they are on board with changes being made to the bill, look for them to happen. But as to how soon is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, because these same Democrats didn’t listen when community leaders, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and Republicans were raising the roof about the changes, alleged criminals will still be let off the hook and free to commit crimes again.
If only Democrats had actually listened. If only.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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