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Orleans DA, County Legislature have concerns about proposed bail reform in NY

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 March 2019 at 2:46 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Orleans County District Attorney Joe Cardone speaks during Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting.

ALBION – Orleans County District Attorney Joe Cardone said a proposed bail reform by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would turn people loose who have been charged with drug crimes and other offenses, putting the community at risk.

Cuomo is pushing to eliminate cash bail and require the immediate release of people charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, except those involving domestic violence or sexual offenses.

“This will take away discretion from judges for setting bail,” Cardone said during Wednesday’s County Legislature meeting. “Frankly, this is an overreach.”

The State Legislature also is considering proposals to eliminate cash bail. Legislation could be part of the state budget that is due to be adopted by April 1.

Cardone said the governor and Legislature are pushing in the wrong direction, away from protecting victims and strengthening the criminal justice system.

Cardone said the bail reform proposed would put many people who have been charged with crimes right back into the community, at a risk to their victims or others, especially informants who have aided in drug arrests.

“It’s really not a thought-out position to do away with bail,” he said.

Proponents of bail reform say cash bail is particularly difficult on poorer people, who are kept in jail for non-violent crimes when they pose little risk to the community.

The state has been pushing other reforms, including having counsel at all arraignments. That will ensure the defendants always have an attorney to advocate on their behalf, including with setting bail, Cardone said.

He said the governor and some state legislators are pushing for bail reform after some people lingered at the Rikers Island jail complex in New York City.

But that isn’t the case in Orleans County, where Cardone said the bail is reasonable.

“Bail is not used to be punitive to the defendants,” he told county legislators. “This whole situation has been an overreaction to a knee-jerk reaction.”

The County Legislature also passed a formal resolution on Wednesday, opposing the bail reform. Legislators cited the concerns raised by Cardone and also said there would be a “significant financial impact” on counties, which would be mandated to establish and fund positions for “pre-trial agencies” that currently do not exist.

Cardone and the county legislators also said Orleans could face big increases in extradition costs if judges can’t set bail and defendants flee the area and don’t return to court.

Cardone said the county currently does about two or three extraditions a year, with officers going to other states to bring defendants back to face charges in Orleans County.

“There is extreme concern over the cost of extraditions,” Cardone said.

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