Also blame Governor Hochul for the bail law
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Tuesday tried to shift some of the blame for Albany’s refusal to tighten its lax bail reform laws on Governor Kathy Hochul, saying she was clearly in his camp on the issue.
“People want to exploit the fact that we don’t want to incarcerate people because they are poor. So everything becomes citation, bail reform without citation,” Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said during a press group in Albany.
“I think the governor was very clear that the reforms we made were good. The kind of orchestrated message that somehow it was wrong is not true,” Stewart-Cousins added.
The leader put Hochul on the spot after The Post reported last week that a growing bipartisan number of lawmakers were recommending that judges have the discretion to order bail or detain defendants who are repeat criminals with a long record of convictions – following a series of high-profile cases where people were let out onto the streets without bail just to break the law again.
Congresswoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem) said she recently spoke to Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin about Frank Abrokwa, the Bronx poo attacker with a long rap sheet that included 22 prior arrests and dozens of further arrests sealed since 1999.
She said Benjamin – Hochul’s number two and running mate – agreed that something needed to be done.
Abrokwa was arrested after allegedly smearing his feces on a woman’s face at a Bronx subway station on February 21 to be released without bail. Dickens has proposed legislation to make it a crime to smear or throw bodily fluids at someone, and said the Cashless Bail Act was first approved in 2019 – automatically releasing accused defendants from most charges. non-violent and minor crimes – should be reconsidered.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), like Stewart-Cousins, is resisting calls to change the bail law.
Hochul said in January that she had rejected renewed calls to give judges the power to keep dangerous suspects behind bars in pretrial detention – something Mayor Eric Adams wanted. She said she would “not give in to the pressure”.
But the governor hasn’t said much since then and a source told the Post last week that she may change her mind and seek to change the cashless bail law. Hochul is the strong front-runner in a Democratic primary this year, but could face tough on-crime leniency attacks from Republicans in the general election unless the law changes.
Stewart-Cousins says Republicans are waging a coordinated fear campaign to mislead voters about the cashless bail law.
But sources said there were 12 Democratic senators in his own caucus who were seeking tougher bail law among them. James Skoufis (D-Rockland).
“You can’t shoplift on Monday, get a ticket and shoplift from the same store on Tuesday,” said Skoufis, chairman of the Senate Investigative Committee.
Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays, when asked about Sewart-Cousins’ comments, said, “Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget includes bold initiatives to seize this unique opportunity to invest in our future, and we are look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to finalize a budget that serves all New Yorkers.
An Albany source said it appears Democratic leaders are playing a game of chicken on bail reform.
“They want to see who blinks first,” the Democratic insider said.