Falls Councilman Tompkins Pushing Resolution Imploring New York to Repeal Bail and Discovery Reform Laws

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City Councilman Ken Tompkins





WHEREAS, the city of Niagara Falls City Council recognizes the need for statewide bail and discovery reform; and

WHEREAS, protecting the people from harm by enforcing the rule of law is the foundational role of government; and

WHEREAS, City governments are vested by the State of New York with the responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us, including the socioeconomically disadvantaged, the disabled, the elderly, and children;

WHEREAS, no group is more vulnerable than the victims of crime, and just a society demands that crime victims should be recognized as key participants within the criminal justice system and be treated with dignity, fairness, and respect; and

WHEREAS, in the final stages of adopting its FY 2020 budget, the State of New York enacted sweeping criminal justice reforms including the elimination of cash bail for many specific enumerated crimes and the imposition of stringent discovery mandates on police and prosecutors; and

WHEREAS, under bail reform, which began January 1, 2020, judges were stripped of their discretion to set bail for many specific enumerated crimes, which means those suspected of committing these crimes can no longer be held in jail after their arrest, regardless of the strength of the case against these defendants, or the length of the potential sentence faced by these defendants, or the extent of the harm allegedly caused by these defendants, and instead these defendants will be released back into the general public; and

WHEREAS, these crimes include those that result in the deaths of innocent people, including several subcategories of homicide and manslaughter, resulting in those responsible for these deaths being released back into the community of grieving families; and

WHEREAS, these crimes include Making a Terroristic Threat and Money Laundering in Support of Terrorism in the Third and Fourth degree, resulting in those alleged to have supported terrorism in this manner, or who have threatened to commit acts of terrorism, being released immediately from police custody; and

WHEREAS, these crimes include promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child, possessing an obscene performance by a child, failure to register as a sex offender, and patronizing a person for prostitution in a school zone, resulting in suspected child predators being released and returning into our community; and

WHEREAS, these crimes include aggravated assault upon a person less that eleven years old; reckless assault of a child by a day care provider; criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child; abandonment of a child; and criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds, resulting in those suspected to have physically harmed or endangered children in this manner being free from custody; and

WHEREAS, these crimes include endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person or an incompetent or physically disabled person, resulting in the potential for further endangerment of seniors and these defenseless individuals; and

WHEREAS, these crimes include aggravated cruelty to animals, torturing animals and injuring animals, resulting in immediately release of those suspected of deliberately injuring, torturing and killing animals; and

WHEREAS, these crimes include assault in the third degree, aggravated vehicular assault, and other crimes of physical violence against people; and

WHEREAS, these crimes include burglary of a residence, resulting in the immediate release of these individuals back into the neighborhoods they are suspected of targeting; and

WHEREAS, these crimes include bail jumping and unlawfully fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle, resulting in release on recognizance of the very individuals who have demonstrated a propensity to evade the law; and

WHEREAS, all the offenders mentioned heretofore are a risk of not showing up for court, thereby placing a burden on public employees who, under this law, are required to send multiple court appearance reminders to these offenders, as well as police officers and district attorneys who must commit resources to tracking and pursing those who evade prosecution; and

WHEREAS, all offenders who are currently being held in custody for non-qualifying crimes includes those mentioned heretofore became eligible for release from custody on January 1, 2020; and

WHEREAS, the discovery mandates imposed by the State of New York requires police and district attorneys, beginning January 1, 2020 to turn over voluminous trial related materials to defense attorneys within 15 days, creating a mandate that will inevitably not be achieved in some cases and may result in the inability of the People to properly prosecute cases against criminal defendants; and

WHEREAS, the office of New York State’s chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Letitia James, testified at a state legislative hearing on October 28, 2019, that there will be implementation difficulties because prosecutors across the state lack the resources required to full comply with discovery mandates; and

WHEREAS, the Attorney General’s office further testified that their own office, which carries a limited criminal caseload, lacks resources required to fully comply with discovery mandates and consequently needs an additional $10 million in state funding; and

WHEREAS, discovery reform will also result in an opportunity for defendants to gain access to crime scenes that may include a victim’s residence, thereby giving defendants accused of burglaries, assaults, rapes and other crimes committed in victims’ homes the right to return to those same homes; and

WHEREAS, the issues mentioned heretofore will undeniably impact past, present, and future victims of crime in a negative manner, and in so doing, the bail and discovery reforms adopted by the State of New York will themselves further victimize these innocents individuals; and

WHEREAS, these bail and discovery laws, in their current form, represent a clear and present danger to society, will tilt the scales of justice in favor of suspected criminals and away from innocent crime victims, and risk reversing decades of bipartisan progress made by the State of New York in reducing crimes; and

WHEREAS, the fundamental responsibility of governments to protect the vulnerable in society demands that the shortcomings of these laws must remediate by total repeal; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Niagara Falls City Council hereby implores the State of New York to immediately repeal these laws; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the following improvements to these laws be implemented as soon as possible:

  1. Give judges the discretion to impose bail when appropriate for all the crimes enumerated in this resolution;
  2. Increase the discovery timeline from 15 days to a minimum of 45 days;
  3. Phase in discovery reform by applying these new mandates only to misdemeanors and then to felonies effective January 1, 2022 and repeal the provision that makes the new discovery mandates applicable to violations of the Vehicle and Traffic Law;
  4. Require that court appearance reminders are sent not only to defendants but also to the victims of their crimes; and
  5. Extend appropriate dignity, fairness and respect to crime victims by soliciting input from victim advocate organizations and considering their suggestions for improving these laws; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Niagara Falls City Council asks all counties and towns in New York State to urge their state representatives to take immediate action on the foregoing issues; and be it further

RESOLVED, that copies of this resolution be provides to: Governor Andrew Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, every member of the New York State Legislature, Congresswomen Elise Stefanik, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Charles Schumer, the New York State Association of Counties, the New York State Sheriff’s Association of New York, the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, the District Attorneys Association of New York, the New York State Defenders Association, the New York State Probation Officers Association, the New York State Council of Probation Administrators, the Associations of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State Of New York, the New York State Association of City Court Judges, the County Judges Association of the State of New York, and the County Attorney’s Associations of the State of New York.


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