BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A major drug bust is sparking a new debate about bail reform law in New York State.

According to authorities, two individuals were arrested following a near three month investigation by the Erie County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics and Intelligence Unit with assistance from the Buffalo Police Department, FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to Erie County Sheriff John Garcia, the investigation resulted in the seizure of 3.5 kilos of cocaine, 5 ounces of fentanyl, over $212,000 in cash, over $200,000 in property, and eight handguns.

Sindey Mellerson, 33, of the Town of Tonawanda and Keshaun Atwood, 31, of Buffalo were arraigned on multiple felonies following the arrests. Mellerson was held without bail and Atwood was released.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says bail was previously used as a “hammer” to stop criminals from committing the same crimes.

“The hammer was bail. The hammer was holding them,” Flynn said. “He [Atwood] was released obviously. None of those charges were qualifying offenses. You can walk around now with $200,000 in cash from drug dealers and walk out of court today in New York State.”

Criminal defense attorney Barry Covert says some offenses are too minor to hold people in jail and if the suspect is too dangerous, Covert says the prosecution should charge them appropriately.

“My problem with prosecutors and police in claiming that these are dangerous individuals but you didn’t charge them with those offenses is that you’re just speculating. Charge that individual with violent offenses and then the judge will have that discretion,” Covert added.

In other drug cases, Flynn argues that judges should have more discretion to hold offenders so that they get treatment while behind bars. Covert says there needs to be an investment in other mental health resources outside of jail.

“To some degree it is a cause of those individuals not going into treatment court and not getting help. And the answer to your question yes, die,” Flynn said.

“If we put them in jail, we are just exacerbating the problem. They aren’t going to recover while in jail. They by in large are not given good mental health resources or substance abuse treatment while in jail. They’re going to come out and do the exact same thing before they went to jail,” Covert said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul addressed the state’s bail reform law in her budget address, saying the law has room for improvement. Both Flynn and Covert agree.

“There’s no perfect law. There’s always room to tweak laws. I don’t think what we are seeing from the various district attorneys and police officers that try to paint this horrible picture by any stretch,” Covert concluded.

Covert explained that in his opinion, bail reform was executed properly in this case. He says more charges would have to be filed against Keshaun Atwood to hold him behind bars.

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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.