Attorney General calls on lawmakers to ‘revisit’ justice reform

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–New York Attorney General Letitia James now says lawmakers need to take a closer look at the state’s landmark criminal justice reforms, even before they go into effect on January 1.

The state legislature passed a package of reform measures in 2019, including shortened periods to preserve criminal defendants “speedy trial” rights, and changes to laws that practically ban cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent crimes.

But a rash of anti-Semitic attacks in and around New York City has served to shine a spotlight on what some say are the “unintended consequences” of criminal justice reform.

While the suspect in the attack at a Jewish gathering in Rockland County is being held on state and federal charges, critics of New York’s new criminal justice reforms point out others arrested in a series of recent anti-Semitic assaults have been released without even setting bail.

Law enforcement is speaking up. Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco said an attack inspired by anti-Semitism is more than a minor crime.

“Part of the criminal justice reforms is hate crimes where there is no bail. I honestly believe that our legislature needs to go back and start looking at some of these things. I think reforms are good but I do think some of them have to be looked at.”

Ironically those reforms don’t even take effect until after the new year, but judges and prosecutors have already started working on some of those changes to conform with the new laws.

Attorney General James said she is listening, “These criminal justice reforms were imposed upon law enforcement without any resources.”

James agrees changes are needed in the package of justice reforms, but her response to reporters in Buffalo Tuesday, was that she seems more concerned with the added costs to local governments to implement the changes.

The state’s top prosecutor said, the reforms would require additional staff, and “In the absence of resources, I am hoping that the legislature will revisit that issue and I hope that the legislature would not impose an unfunded mandate on the law enforcement officers of the State of New York.”

James was also asked if she plans to investigate the Sunday night shooting of a criminal suspect by Buffalo police. The Attorney General said her office lacks the authority, since the shooting victim was allegedly armed, and survived.

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