Nassau County Executive Laura Curran should be ashamed of herself. She has spent the last few weeks reaching out to every news outlet that will have her, advocating for the rollback of badly overdue criminal justice reform in New York State.
This is not because she truly believes her constituents are in imminent danger because of the new law that eliminates cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, but because she thinks she can temper Republican criticism by surrendering to their fear-based narrative.
Firstly, the reason this law was implemented was to prevent courts from holding those accused of certain misdemeanors and non-violent felonies in custody simply because they couldn’t afford bail.
One can’t argue this is a matter of public safety, when (prior to the passage of the law) one individual accused of committing a crime and paying bail would get to walk free pending trial, while an indigent defendant accused of committing the same crime could spend weeks, months or even years behind bars without a conviction.
For an analysis of the new law that goes into much greater detail than I could possibly go into here, I strongly recommend “The controversy over New York’s bail reform law, explained” by Roxanna Asgarian, posted Jan. 17 on Vox.com.
Instead of doing her duty as county executive and explaining why the new law is necessary and why Republican fearmongering is not a valid basis to revisit the law, Curran seems bent on aiding them in their Willie Horton-style partisan crusade.
Especially disgusting is Curran’s mention of the recent anti-Semitic attack in Monsey, N.Y. in her Jan. 7 op-ed published by the Daily News, despite the fact that that horrific and traumatizing attack had nothing to do with the new bail reform law.
The law was not the reason the Monsey attacker was on the street, and, as attempted murder is a violent felony, that attacker was rightly denied release pending trial.
The day after Curran’s op-ed was published, the Daily News released an op-ed by state assemblypersons Dan Quart, Harvey Epstein and Linda B. Rosenthal, “Not in our name: Don’t use anti-Semitic attacks as a rationale for rewriting bail reform,” a truly excellent piece debunking the claim by Curran and others that they are acting in the best interests of the Jewish community.
Curran, unsatisfied with the damage she had done through print media, agreed to an interview on Jan. 16 with Brian Kilmeade on Donald Trump’s favorite source of inane right-wing chatter, “Fox & Friends.”
During the interview, Kilmeade harped on the case of an accused serial bank robber, took swipes at Gov. Andrew Cuomo and CNN and, for no reason in particular, brought up New York City’s sanctuary policies, despite the fact that Curran represents Nassau County and that local governments refusing to cooperate with ICE has nothing to do with the bail reform law.
While on “Fox & Friends,” Curran briefly mentioned the case of Kalief Browder, who spent more than a thousand days confined on Riker’s Island after being accused of stealing a backpack and later committed suicide (though she didn’t refer to him by name). Curran said such a case proved that reform was needed, but she held that the new law went too far.
Bail for Browder was initially set at $3,000, which his family couldn’t afford to pay; the court eventually withdrew the offer of bail altogether. For a detailed history of Browder’s legal case, see “Before the Law” by Jennifer Gonnerman, posted on The New Yorker’s website on Sept. 29, 2014.
Perhaps Curran believes mentioning Browder’s case, while also criticizing reform that might have saved his life, makes her, as Fox News used to put it, “fair and balanced.” However, there is no cutting it down the middle here. Republicans have chosen reversing bail reform as the issue to run on and have a vested interest in portraying the law as a dangerous and abject failure, even if that portrayal is not based in reality.
I hope that our Democratic state legislators, especially those representing Long Island districts (including Anna Kaplan and Tony D’Urso), will ignore Curran’s cowardly advice, and, instead, stand firm.
Explain to your constituents why Republican arguments are wrong and how rolling back or neutering the new law would not improve public safety. In this case, pursuing a middle ground (or surrendering outright) would not only be unethical but, from a political perspective, it would also mollify no one.
New Hyde Park