Hochul Addresses Furor Over Bail Reform Law
ALBANY — Amid a spike in gun violence across the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul recently clarified her position on the state’s controversial bail law, signaling she won’t push to restore judicial discretion to jail defendants, at least not for the time being.
Hochul, a Democrat running to keep her job this year, said she is trying to get new data that could explain the forces fueling the rise in violent crime.
“I’m looking for the data that shows me that bail reform is the reason that somehow crime is going up,” said Hochul. She added that her administration is pursuing initiatives aimed at stemming the influx of illegal guns onto the streets of New York. “I’m focused on what I have control over right now.”
The Democratic leaders of the two chambers of the Legislature have signaled they have no immediate plans to revise the latest version of the bail law, despite pressure on them to do so from New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat and former police officer.
State Sen. GOP Leader Rob Ortt and members of his conference, including Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, and Peter Oberacker, R-Otsego County, insist judges should again have the ability to set bail in cases where they believe the defendant poses a threat to community safety.
Hochul, at an event where she detailed the formation of a new interstate effort to combat the smuggling of illegal guns into New York communities, took a swipe at unnamed Republicans, accusing them of “trying to politicize” the bail controversy and the crime issue.
Hochul drew sharp criticism from her rival for the Democratic nomination for governor, Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-Long Island, and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-North Country.
“By refusing to add a dangerousness standard and to give judges more discretion, Hochul is standing against common sense,” said Suozzi.
Led by Stefanik, six GOP members of New York’s congressional delegation, in a letter to Hochul, called for her to “prioritize public safety over irresponsible policies put forward by the far left.”
The New York State Sheriffs’ Association and the New York State Association of Police Chiefs have also been firm in urging that judges again be given the authority to use the dangerousness standard in bail matters.
Hochul’s plans for countering gun crimes include the hiring of social media analysts as part of an effort to flag messages that could be preludes for acts of violence.
She said there will also be gun interdiction efforts near the state border with Pennsylvania, suggesting less restrictive laws in the Keystone State are exploited by gun smugglers who acquire firearms at gun shows and then transport the weapons across state lines, driving into New York via U.S. Routes 81 and 90.
Also, a new state Office of Gun Violence Prevention will become part of the state Department of Health, Hochul said. Appointed to run the new bureaucracy is Calliana Thomas, whose job will include directing resources to emerging gun violence hot spots and collaborating with the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
“We are coming at this issue with all the resources we can deploy,” Hochul said.
Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, R-Niagara Falls, a retired city court judge, said he supports efforts to intercept guns from illicit traffickers as long as the state does not add further restrictions to those who acquire firearms lawfully.
“What I see based upon my experience as an attorney, a judge, and as a legislator is that as we go through life there is less and less focus on responsibility and the consequences of your actions, while there is more focus on entitlement,” Morinello said. “It’s time we actually take a look at what’s going on and address it in a sane, direct manner.”