Local Prosecutors Oppose Cuomo's Bail Reform

Local Prosecutors Oppose Cuomo's Bail Reform

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If someone is arrested for rape, sexual abuse or conspiracy to commit murder, you'd likely feel safer if that person went to jail. 

But people facing those charges, and others, could be set free until their trial if Governor Cuomo's push to end cash bail in New York becomes law.

"The way these bills are currently written poses a great threat to public safety," said Jefferson County District Attorney Kristyna Mills.

Right now, state lawmakers are on the edge of passing drastic reform to criminal justice - all a part of Governor Cuomo's 2020 budget.

But these potential changes don't sit well with local district attorneys. The reform act would eliminate cash bail.

It also would make a number of crimes ineligible for pretrial detention. This means people charged with crimes like rape in the second- and third-degree, promoting a sexual performance by a child, conspiracy to commit murder, assault in the second-degree, and making terroristic threats, would be released into the community while awaiting trial.

"So that individual's going to be able to return home and potentially continue that criminal activity. I think what you're going to see is New York become a less safe state based upon some of these changes," said St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary Pasqua.

The reform also includes making prosecutors hand over witness statements and information, like addresses, within 15 days. 

It's a move Mills says puts witnesses at risk.

"Now you have a defendant at liberty who possesses all of the information on all of the people that gave statements against them."

Under the reform act, detention hearings could still be set for class A felonies, like murder, and class B and C violent felonies, like first-degree assault.

But Lewis County District Attorney Leanne Moser says they should at least be able to make their case on all of the other crimes.

"It also takes it out of the hands of a judge. I really don't even think our citizens of our community want that. That's not their idea of what protection of their community is about nor is it about justice," she said.

The district attorneys I spoke with agree New York's criminal justice system could use some reform, but theses changes as written aren't the answer because of the public safety risk. 

They want to see the reform act taken out of the proposed budget before it's expected to pass by April 1.

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