For the nine months after the bill was signed, law enforcement officials, community leaders, and Republicans all warned New York state Democratic legislators that the bail reform policies they had inserted into the state’s budget were going to backfire.
At the time the state budget passed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed bail system changes as one way to make the system fairer and to stop jail overcrowding.
“As part of a groundbreaking plan to modernize New York’s bail system, cash bail will be eliminated for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies ….these reforms will ensure approximately 90 percent of people charged, but not yet convicted of a crime, are not sitting in jail awaiting trial solely because they do not have the economic resources to meet bail,” Cuomo stated on his website at the time.
Though the reforms technically didn’t go into effect at the first of the year, judges and prosecutors were already implementing them in the weeks prior.
In one high-profile case, Tiffany Harris, who had admitted carrying out an anti-Semitic attack on three Jewish women in late December, was released by a judge at year’s end because, per the judge, “it will be required under the statute in just a few days.” That same weekend, Harris allegedly struck again and ended up before a judge the very next week.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio intervened in the case a short time later to keep Harris off the streets after a third arrest, because her case was creating bad publicity for the failed presidential candidate and his administration.
Unfortunately, Harris’ case wasn’t the only one where an accused offender was allowed to go free under the new bail reform system only to go out and allegedly commit more crimes just days later.
According to the New York Post, Gerod Woodberry was arrested “in connection to four Manhattan bank robberies” that took place between the end of the year and the first few days of 2020, but he was released under the new bail reform law because he allegedly used a note to rob the banks instead of a gun.
He was allowed to go free on Thursday. “I can’t believe they let me out. What were they thinking?” Woodberry was reportedly heard saying as he was released, per the Post.
The next day, he is alleged to have committed the same crime again.
It’s gotten so bad in only the first two weeks of the year that both de Blasio and Cuomo have signaled they’re now on board with making some adjustments to the law — but this is only thanks to community backlash, national ridicule, and alleged criminals being released over and over again, not any genuine change of heart.
Though both of them are pushing the state legislature to act to change the reforms they touted just months earlier, there is still no word yet from Mayor de Blasio as to whether or not he will revise his troubling policy where gift cards, museum passes, Mets tickets and cellphones are offered to get accused criminals to show up for scheduled court dates.
While none of this is amusing, it does bring back memories of how often Democratic leaders in New York state have enjoyed picking on North Carolina over the years over the so-called “bathroom bill,” a far more sensible law which harmed no one, unlike New York’s new bail reform policies, which will continue to harm law-abiding citizens and the community at large until the policy is amended, if not beyond.
Dear New York Democrats: As the old saying goes, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Stacey Matthews is a veteran blogger who has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to Red State and Legal Insurrection.