BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — New York State Assembly Majority leader Crystal People-Stokes is defending the new controversial bail reform law.
“Violent criminals are not being released as a result of bail reform. I want to repeat that because it’s been said so many times that people think it is true. Violent criminals are not being released as a result of bail reform. This fear mongering,” declare People-Stokes.
People-Stokes joined other members of the legal community Friday in downtown Buffalo at the Legal Aid Bureau to speak out against opposition to the law. Legal Aid, attorneys John Elmore, Terry Connors, Kevin Stadelmaier, Rebecca Town and the Partnership for the Public Good attended the news conference.
There has been plenty of opposition to the new controversial bail reform law.
People-stokes and the legal members support this new law and explained why it provides equity for those who have not committed crimes of violence.
“Let’s protect the constitutional rights of people who are black, brown and poor. This is what this is about and for everybody who thinks it is not, I’m going to have to wonder why is it important for them to have constitutional rights and it’s not important for people who don’t have resources to have constitutional rights,” People-Stokes remarked.
The law eliminates cash bail for those charged with misdemeanors and non-violent crimes. It allows suspects to be free until their court appearance.
People-stokes says the law is critical for equal justice. She says it protects the legal presumption of innocence for people accused of lower level crimes that aren’t violent.
People-Stokes and other legal members said it has already reduced the number of people being held before trial in Erie County from more than 1000 to over 400 and it has already saved the county $35 million.
The law still requires cash bail by the courts in certain cases, such as alleged sex crimes or domestic violence and for defendants who consistently fail to appear in court.
Buffalo attorney Connors says bail reform was overdue.
“The bail system in the state of New York is broken – it resulted in more injustice than justice – it was clearly a two-tiered system. It was a system where if you had the economic wherewithal you could get out on the street and continue your life, if you didn’t you suffered the penalties,” stated Connors.
But Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently admitted changes are need to the new law, even calling it a 'work in progress'.
7 Eyewitness News asked the Assemblywoman if she agrees with Cuomo.
“The Governor and I are great friends, but sometimes we disagree. I hear the governor’s opinion and I just disagree with it. I think we should allow this position to stay exactly where it is until we found some reasons to eliminate it and I don’t think we will,” replied People-Stokes.
The lawmaker and legal members were also asked to respond to a woman who was arrested three times in the same earlier this week in Cheektowaga. No bail was given to the woman, but she faces several charges including reckless driving and driving without a license.
The legal members says the problem was happening under the old bail system.
People-Stokes, once again, defended the new law.
“That’s not on the law, that’s on the judge she was before,” said People-Stokes.
Buffalo attorney John Elmore said one of the conditions of setting bail is that the defendant does not commit crimes.
“In this particular case the police officer, after the second arrest, did have the right to bring that person in front of a judge and have bail set,” Elmore explained.
“Clearly if the person is arrested three times within a span of 24 to 48 hours – there are underlying problems that have nothing to with the bail system,” responded Connors.
The legal members and assembly leader say they will not go backwards.
The leader of Prisoners are People Too in Buffalo also spoke in defense of the bail law saying many people lost the children and homes due to finances because they were forced to post cash bail.
The Partnership for the Public Good said it studied the bail issue and found bail in Buffalo was set five times higher than in New York City. On average, the agency said bail was set at $5,000 in Buffalo and $1,000 in New York City.
People-Stokes also stated the reform is about helping those who are “black, Brown and poor.”