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County officials decry criminal justice reforms

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
Posted 11/7/19

New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo assembled a team of lawmakers, law enforcers and others in Utica Monday, Oct. 28 to express their concerns and frustrations with a series of new laws and …

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County officials decry criminal justice reforms


New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo assembled a team of lawmakers, law enforcers and others in Utica Monday, Oct. 28 to express their concerns and frustrations with a series of new laws and criminal justice reforms passed by the state Legislature this year, some of which will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Among the concerns raised by Griffo, R-47, Rome, were an end to cash bail for most crimes, a rush on evidence sharing by attorneys, new rent control initiatives and granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

“We’re not saying that reform is bad. We’re saying that you need to ask the stakeholders,” Griffo said this morning. “Instead of listening to the sheriffs, the district attorneys, the county clerks, the real estate agencies across the state, I think many of the leaders now charged in the majority were more concerned about getting a headline.”

Griffo was joined by Oneida County Sheriff Robert M. Maciol, Oneida County District Attorney Scott D. McNamara, Oneida County Clerk Sandra DePerno, Lewis County Sheriff Michael Carpinelli, Lewis County District Attorney Leanne Moser, Assemblyman Brian Miller, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells, Madison County Chief Assistant District Attorney Robert A. Mascari, Mohawk Valley Association of REALTORS Executive Officer Ann Rushlo and Diana Raymond, board president of the REALTORS Association.

Among the topics discussed on Friday were new rent control regulations passed through Upstate New York, similar to what is done in New York City. Griffo said these new procedures will create bureaucratic hurdles to home improvements that could put landlords behind. They also discussed new costs and mandates associated with early voting, changes to the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities funding, and the Greenlight laws, which grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, along with free college tuition, according to Griffo.

Chief among the concerns were the new criminal justice reforms.

New state laws attempting to curb problems with bail and bond will see a majority of people arrested released on appearance tickets instead of bail, largely anyone charged with less than a violent felony.

Griffo and his team said this will result in more people failing to reappear in court, taxing law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.

Maciol said if the law went into effect today, he would have to release 120 inmates from the county jail because of bail reform. “These are the drug dealers in our communities and on our streets,” Maciol warned, calling the reforms “insane.”

District Attorney Scott D. McNarama decried the new law that says evidence discovery on all criminal cases — the sharing of evidence between the prosecution and the defense — will need to be conducted within 15 days of an arrest.

McNamara said his office works on 1,000 traffic tickets a week, all of which will now require all evidence collected and shared within 15 days, he stated.

“This isn’t about whining and complaining that we’re going to have to do more work, it’s about the reality that we can’t do the work,” McNamara said. Even with 22 assistant district attorneys in his office, McNamara said there simply aren’t enough hours in a day to do all of the work now required on all traffic tickets that come into his office, let alone the violations, misdemeanors and felony cases.

Lewis County District Attorney Leanne Moser added that she doesn’t have any assistant district attorneys to help her with such a caseload.

Griffo ended his meeting by urging all Oneida County residents and beyond to reach out to their elected leaders and the office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to try and repeal or amend these laws before they go into effect.

“It’s time to let them know that enough is enough and the insanity must end,” Griffo stated.


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