From the Desk of Ed Ra: Bail reforms needed to improve public safety

From the Desk of Ed Ra: Bail reforms needed to improve public safety

Innocent commuters pushed in front of subway cars, “smash and grab” robberies in local shops, random assaults in broad daylight and even “killers” who have taken the lives of victims with drugs, guns and more…welcome to New York State under the “cashless bail” law that extreme politicians passed in Albany during the 2019 session.

It’s true, extreme politicians in the state Legislature hastily crafted legislation in 2019 which embraced their theory that almost every crime on the books should no longer be bail eligible.  The results of their “cashless bail” law have been nothing short of disastrous.

I was heartbroken when I listened to anguish in Jennifer Payne’s voice as she recounted the story of how her daughter’s live-in boyfriend shot and killed the young mother while her 4-year-old daughter slept in the adjoining bedroom.  The suspected killer “walked” free under the bail laws passed in Albany.  I was outraged when I read the account of Antony Ojeda, who was released due to “cashless bail,” even though he admitted killing his infant son.  The baby had ingested a lethal dose of illicit drugs.  He has been on the run after being charged with murder and has landed on the U.S. Marshal’s most wanted list.


And right here on Long Island, I met and spoke with Victor Maldonado, the father of a young man who was killed by a four-time DWI driver who slammed into Victor’s son after disabling a car ignition Breathalyzer device.  The alleged killer in this case bragged at the crime scene that he would be released because of the new terrible bail law, and he was correct.

What’s more, the extreme politicians who passed “cashless bail” saw to it that virtually every drug crime was not bail eligible.  Moreover, drug gangs, dealers and other merchants of drug overdoses and deaths have been set free to wreak havoc in our neighborhoods again.

Imagine the depravity of a Long Island dog-fighting ring in which owners of the animals tortured and sexually abused the dogs, even killing dogs that were deemed to be substandard fighters.  Of the 10 individuals who were arrested in the case, only one was remanded to custody.  These evil individuals are the types of people who are being turned loose under “cashless bail.”

Perhaps the most disconcerting part of the “cashless bail” law is the fact that judges are not empowered to consider whether an accused criminal presents a danger to society in deciding whether to remand an individual to custody. That’s why I have drafted legislation to grant judges this power, which would help keep dangerous people off of our streets.

Indeed, the Legislature can pursue some worthy and warranted criminal reforms and protect public safety by adopting my legislation, which establishes a dangerousness standard.

Allowing a judge to make a finding on the record that an individual standing before them poses a threat to public safety, and order the individual held pretrial, is a sound and sensible step forward in the quest for meaningful criminal reform. Absent a dangerousness standard, true judicial discretion does not exist; that is, the ability of a judge to evaluate the matter in front of them both in terms of the crime charged and the defendant’s history.

The 2021 “Less is More” Act poses similar problems. This was billed as a measure to prevent parolees from being re-incarcerated for minor technical violations. Thoughtful reflection and evidence gathering from this extreme law details that failing to register as a sex offender is considered a “minor technical violation.” What rational person would believe a convicted sexual predator roaming our streets, failing to notify the community is a “minor” transgression?

Discovery reform measures were also adopted along with the bail reform law in 2019. Even progressive district attorneys have blanched at the law’s provisions, which forced prosecutors to provide accused violent criminals with the contact information and addresses of victims and witnesses.  Understandably, this law has put a damper on witnesses to crimes, and many crime victims are also hesitant to step forward.

I believe that there are practical steps that the state Legislature can take to address rising crime while still acknowledging the well-intended spirit of sensible criminal justice reforms.  It is my goal to have both Democrats and Republicans come together on well-considered criminal reforms.

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