Local Officials Call On State To Repeal Criminal Justice Reforms

MAYVILLE – Officials in Chautauqua County are calling on New York State to repeal the recently passed criminal justice reforms.

Chautauqua County Executive, and State Senator Elect, George Borrello held a press conference Friday morning discussing what he calls the serious public safety, judicial and budgetary impacts of the law.

“As Chautauqua County Executive over this past year, I was stunned and alarmed to see a flood of radical, politically-driven and costly new laws from Albany forced on residents and localities around the state,” said Borrello. “From legislation allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, to the disastrous farm labor bill, to billions in new taxes and volumes of unfunded mandates, the dire impact of one-party rule was on full display.”

“However, topping the list of ill-conceived measures was the overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system. Folded into the massive state budget and passed without a single hearing or debate, these ‘reforms’ include the elimination of cash bail for 90 percent of those charged with crimes – including serious crimes such as first degree grand larceny, terrorism-related money laundering, and the assault of a child under 11 years old – without any real safeguards to ensure the accused will return to court to face justice.” said Borrello.

Under the law passed in April, Borrello said over 400 offenses will not qualify for bail in New York after January 1. Some include the following:

*   Manslaughter in the second degree;

*   Vehicular manslaughter in the first degree;

*   Criminally negligent homicide;

*   Burglary in the second degree;

*   Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds;

*   Felony criminal sale and criminal possession of controlled substances;

*   Money laundering to support terrorism;

*   Promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child;

*   Bribe given to a public official; and

*   Aggravated cruelty to animals

Under new discovery reform rules, grand jury proceedings will no longer be secret. Prosecutors must turn over their evidence to defense counsel within 15 days after arraignment.

“The magnitude and substance of the changes, particularly those related to discovery, clearly reflect that these measures were rushed through, without any input from the law enforcement professionals who will actually be charged with trying to implement these new rules,” said Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson. “Barring any last minute changes to the law, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies statewide will struggle mightily to comply with the expanded and accelerated discovery requirements.”

“Compiling and reviewing discovery is a labor-intensive process that requires appropriate staffing levels and up-to-date secure technology,” Swanson furthered. “District Attorney’s offices, police departments, 911 call centers, crime laboratories and many other entities need the tools and staff to be able to retrieve, prepare and exchange discovery. The unwillingness to appropriate funds for these changes will only cause victims to be victimized again when prosecutors are unable to perform the basic functions of their offices.”

Borrello pointed to two new proposals advanced this week by State Senators Serino and Gallivan that would address two of the most glaring shortcomings of the reforms.

The first bill would allow judges to consider a perpetrators’ dangerousness when determining whether a defendant should be held pre-trial; New York will be one of only four states that does not allow such a consideration.

The second bill would help protect victims of domestic violence by requiring that crimes under the aggravated family offense statute qualify for bail and pre-trial detention.

“My sincere hope is that the warnings shared by everyone here today, along with those aired by law enforcement professionals across New York, will convince the Governor and legislative leaders to reverse course on these radical changes,” said Borrello. “These measures should serve as a starting point for a constructive, bipartisan effort on this issue. New Yorkers need us to craft true reforms that will advance the objective of equal justice for all – which everyone supports — while preserving public safety and the effective functioning of the criminal justice system.”

Borrello was joined by Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson, Chautauqua County Sheriff Jim Quattrone, Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings, Dunkirk Police Chief Dave Ortolano, and several other officials.


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