Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and District Attorney Madeline Singas demanded changes to criminal justice reform laws on Wednesday after a crime victim who was prepared to testify against his attackers was killed.
According to Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Wilmer Maldonado Rodriguez, 36, was found beaten to death in New Cassel on Sunday.
Ryder said Maldonado was a witness to an October 2018 gang assault for which nine members of MS-13 were arrested.
At the time of the attack, according to Singas, Maldonado intervened and was struck in the head with a bat and suffered multiple stab wounds.
According to Singas, Maldonado’s identity was safeguarded by a protective order obtained in December 2018 but was subsequently disclosed pursuant to a judge’s order and the new criminal justice reforms, which also set limits on bail, one year later.
“That protective order was lifted because the trial date was set at January 6, that trial date did not go on January 6,” Ryder said during a news conference on Wednesday. “We don’t know if the information was given to the defense, which it is able to under the new laws, but right after that time period, a pattern of intimidation began.”
Ryder said Maldonado escaped from beatings on Feb. 1 before being killed a day later.
“This case underscores the importance of safeguarding the identities of witnesses and victims of crime and our hearts are with Mr. Maldonado’s family and friends as we grieve his loss,” Singas said in a statement. “We will bring everyone associated with this horrific murder to justice.”
“These new discovery requirements pose a threat to both the victims and witnesses of crimes,” Curran said in a statement. “Nassau County has worked hard to build trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve, and this law now undercuts that trust. Our communities will be scared to report crimes or talk to law enforcement. We cannot let another murder happen because a witness may have been disclosed.”
Curran also sent her deepest condolences to the Maldonado’s family, calling the entire incident a tragedy.
“I am calling on Albany to take corrective action to fix criminal justice reform immediately,” Curran wrote. “Change this law now!”
County officials have already advocated changes in the statewide laws that eliminated pretrial detention and optional cash bail in an estimated 90 percent of cases.
According to officials, more than 175 people accused of misdemeanors and “nonviolent felonies” were released in Nassau County without bail as they await trial.
Previously Ryder cited the arrests of three Chileans who allegedly burglarized homes in areas such as Great Neck, Saddle Rock and Hewlett.
Ryder said that the new bail reform laws allowed two members of the alleged Chilean crew to flee the country and not appear for their schedule prosecution.
“Those two individuals were supposed to report to [get] their ankle bracelets; they did not,” Ryder said. “They were supposed to show up in court a week later; they did not show. Those two individuals as we said before are probably back on a beach in Chile right now, watching this and having a good laugh.”
State Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square) has joined with local and state officials, law enforcement leaders, prosecutors and law enforcement in Albany in advocating a change in the laws.
“Some of the stories we’re hearing are absolutely sickening. Criminals who have committed homicides, sex crimes and assaulted police officers have been let out. When they re-offend, the harm they cause is even more tragic because it was preventable,” Ra said.