We’ve covered any number of stories about New York’s disastrous “bail reform” law and the chain of resulting arrests that would be almost comical were it not for the number of people victimized through recidivism. Through it all, however, both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Big Apple Mayor Bill de Blasio have stuck to their figurative guns, insisting that their efforts to “empty the jails” were of more value to the citizens than any petty concerns of people being robbed, raped or otherwise assaulted by the beneficiaries of these catch and release programs. But one of those two champions is now singing a bit of a different tune, at least in certain, specific circumstances.
As you’ve no doubt heard, there have been quite a few arrests being made in New York City over the past week or so, mostly at night as a result of the “unrest” sweeping the city these days. Because of these laws, nearly all of the people found to have been looting, smashing windows and setting police vehicles ablaze have been immediately released. As you might imagine, that doesn’t provide much of a disincentive for them to go out the following night and do it all over again, as many have gone on to do. This seems to have finally come to the attention of the Governor, who now wants judges to start bringing the hammer down and keeping them behind bars while the police struggle to restore order. (NY Post)
Right now, anyone arrested for looting gets rapidly released, with no need to post bail to avoid jail until trial. Gov. Andrew Cuomo could fix it — but he’s instead pretending that the laws aren’t crystal-clear.
That would be laws Cuomo has signed, including last year’s horrific “no bail” law and this year’s inadequate fixes to it.
Manhattan DA Cy Vance has called on the gov to use his emergency powers to settle the issue (for now) — that is, to override the no-bail law that stops judges from using their discretion to remand dangerous perps.
But Cuomo won’t admit the truth, as outlined not just by the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, but also the state Office of Court Administration.
Both Governor Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance are trying to eat their cake and have it too in this situation. Cuomo insists that he still supports the bail reform law and the few, milquetoast changes he made to it earlier this year are enough. Instead, he’s trying to shift the blame to the DA’s office, saying that they should be charging the looters with Second Degree Burglary, an offense for which the suspects would not be immediately eligible for release without bail.
But as the DA has already pointed out, proving Burglary 2 requires the use of a “dangerous instrument” that puts another person in imminent danger of harm. A property crime (such as smashing out a window so you can loot the store’s contents) wouldn’t qualify. So all the DA would be doing is setting up a bunch of looters to be acquitted at trial.
Vance is taking the opposite approach. At a recent press conference, he insisted that he still wants New York “to join 49 other states to eliminate cash bail.” But he immediately followed that up with a demand for the Governor to use his executive authority to temporarily override the new laws and to also give judges the ability “to detain someone when there is a clear risk of re-offense.”
Both aspects of Vance’s argument are nonsensical. First of all, if the bail reform laws aren’t working during such a period of general unrest, then they don’t work during more “normal times” either. You just don’t see the negative results on such a massive, compressed scale. And as to allowing judges the flexibility to detain someone when there is “a clear risk of re-offense,” that’s precisely the flexibility that he, Cuomo and de Blasio took away when they passed the laws. Judges had previously always had (and used) that discretion. Nobody’s crystal ball is 100% accurate, but the system clearly worked better than what we have now.
The current crisis has really ripped the bandage off of this simmering issue. In some cases the same people are being arrested night after night, going straight out the door to rejoin the crowds in the streets. And the Mayor, the Governor and the Manhattan District Attorney are all busy pointing their fingers at each other rather than addressing the underlying issue.