Legislative majority presents bill to get data on criminal justice, bail reforms in Nassau County

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Nassau County Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) spoke on the need for changes in criminal justice and bail reform in the county. (Photo courtesy of the presiding officer's office)

A bill that would require the Nassau County Police Department to submit quarterly reports on the effects of criminal justice reforms was unanimously approved by the County Legislature’s bipartisan Rules and Public Safety committees.

The bill was drafted by the Republican majority in response to statewide bail and criminal justice reforms that were implemented on Jan. 1. Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said Monday that the new laws have impeded county law enforcement, and an uptick in major crime has been the result.

“With daily news stories of crimes being committed by those released under this ‘reform,’ it is important for Legislators to learn more about the effects of the so-called reforms in Nassau and for the public to have an opportunity to be heard,” he said in a news release. “Our proposed law will provide lawmakers and residents with quantifiable data regarding those released in Nassau. We can then use this information to make decisions that will help keep our community safe and show state lawmakers exactly how our residents have been affected.”

The proposed quarterly review that would be submitted by law enforcement officials would include the total number of defendants released on cashless bail in the county and a brief overview of the crimes they allegedly committed, the total number of bench warrants issued for a defendant’s failure to attend a proceeding, and the number of crimes and charges against defendants since they have been released without bail, according to the news release.

Nicolello said he has heard some “extremely disturbing” stories in the past month that played a large part in the creation of this bill.

“There are plenty of things I have heard that have been extremely disturbing,” Nicolello said Monday. “There was a story in West Hempstead about bank robberies and people going back to rob more and even drug dealers with massive amounts of fentanyl on them.  It’s disturbing, to say the least.”

According to county police detectives, a male suspect identified as Romell Nellis entered the Roslyn Savings Bank at 50 Hempstead Turnpike on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and allegedly passed a note to the teller informing him Nellis had a gun and demanded money.

Officials said the teller complied and Nellis fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of money.

Officials said Nellis was arrested a month earlier for robbing two banks and was subsequently released.

Nicolello also discussed the benefits of certain modifications to the criminal justice system and spoke about what he believed the reforms sought to accomplish.

“Well, I think [it was addressed to aid] low-level offenders who don’t have the money for bail,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to sit in jail while their charges are pending.  It’s gone way beyond that, and they went way too far.”

According to Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, there has been a 5 percent increase in major crimes since cashless bail reform laws have taken effect. 

Ryder has recently been one of the more vocal county officials on the subject and 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.”

The new laws, passed in April, eliminated pretrial detention and optional cash bail in an estimated 90 percent of cases.

According to county officials, more than 175 people accused of misdemeanors and “nonviolent felonies” were initially released without bail as they await trial.

Legislators and county officials will hold a public hearing to address the cost, effects on public safety and overall impact of the recent reforms on Thursday.

“I look forward to hearing from residents and other stakeholders this Thursday, to further determine the impact these ‘reforms’ are having on our county,” Nicolello said.

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