Frequently invoking Mayor Eric Adams, gubernatorial primary challenger Rep. Tom Suozzi said he’s willing to wage war with fellow Democrats in a bid to tighten the controversial state law that eliminated cash bail for many criminal defendants.
Citing surging crime, Suozzi directly challenged primary foe Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democrats who control the state Legislature, saying they will be failures if they refuse to take action in the 2022 legislative session to give judges more discretion over releasing criminal defendants pending trial.
“If we don’t address this problem, it’s a failure. Yes. Crime is a real problem in our state,” Suozzi said during a Zoom press conference Tuesday.
“It’s a shock to me that the governor hasn’t made this a priority at all,” Suozzi said of bail reform and the overall spike in crime.
Suozzi cited statistics published by the Times Union that showed that about 3,400 criminal defendants out of 98,000 sprung under the cashless bail law for most misdemeanor crimes from July 2020 to June 2021 — or nearly 4 percent — were re-arrested. That’s 4 percent too many, he said.
“We’re trying to reform the system, and we’re trying to make a better system. And I’m saying that we need to give judges discretion in the cases where someone has a history of violent crime,” said Suozzi, the Long Island congressman who touts himself as a “common sense” Democrat.
“We need to take into account if somebody’s record has shown that person having a propensity for violence, and they’ve been arrested again, that we can’t let them out onto the streets again so readily.”
Suozzi said he will soon release a white paper on his crime-fighting plan that will include a proposal that would give judges discretion to consider “public safety” or the dangerousness of a defendant as well as flight risk in determining whether to detain or release pending trial.
Parroting Mayor Adams, he said New York deserves both “justice and public safety.”
“One of the great things about Eric Adams and his campaign for mayor that I supported so strongly is he always talked about how you can have justice, but you have to have public safety as well,” he said.
The bail reform that took effect two years ago eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanor or “non violent” crimes. Proponents pushed for the law after complaining that too many poor and mostly minority defendants were detained for petty or low-level crimes because they couldn’t afford the cash bail for release.
Hochul, who delivers here first State of the State address on Wednesday, has not discussed bail reform in any detail. Her campaign declined comment on Suozzi’s remarks.
Reps for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also declined comment.
Last week, Suozzi rapped Hochul for dangerous conditions at Penn Station.
Meanwhile, Suozzi said he also “100 percent” supported Adams’ decision to restore solitary confinement in Rikers Island jails as a tool to impose discipline and restore order — something critics deride as cruel punishment.
Suozzi will face off in the Democratic primary against Hochul and city Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
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