PAMELIA — A Pamelia man accused of strangling a woman, who had a 3-year-old child on her lap, and then firing a gun on Friday was released under the state’s new bail reform laws, raising law enforcement concerns for the public.
Jefferson County sheriff deputies charged Edward F. Perkins III, 31, of 23313 County Route 31, in the incident with felony second-degree strangulation, a felony weapons charge, felony criminal mischief, endangering the welfare of a child and other charges.
He was later arrested when he was found driving on Route 12E — with the same shotgun in his car. A judge ordered that 22 guns, a gun magazine and the shotgun be removed from his home.
He was arraigned and then freed without bail.
Jefferson County Sheriff Colleen M. O’Neill said the incident is “a prime example” why the new bail reforms that went into effect on Jan. 1 should be changed. In this particular case, it puts both the victim and the public at risk, Sheriff O’Neill said.
“I don’t think it’s worth the public’s safety to take a chance,” she said. “My biggest fear is that it puts police officers in danger.”
Within a couple of hours, Mr. Perkins allegedly committed those crimes, was arraigned and then freed. The bail reforms automatically release defendants without bail.
Without the bail changes, he probably would have been incarcerated under the old system. District Attorney Kristyna S. Mills would have asked the judge for bail — and been granted — because it involved two violent felonies, she said.
In this particular situation, his attorney, John Hallett, said his client will appear in court.
His client has no prior convictions, has a full-time job and lives locally, so he isn’t a flight risk, Mr. Hallett said. A stay away order of protection also was issued and his guns were removed.
“In this particular case, what should have happened is exactly what happened,” he said.
But there have been other instances in which the bail reforms have raised concerns for both Sheriff O’Neill and Mrs. Mills.
Being incarcerated can prevent a defendant from getting released and committing more crimes, Mrs. Mills said. It also might have saved a life of one defendant who was recently released and then died of a suspected drug overdose, she said.
Sheriff O’Neill mentioned a case in which two females involved in a vehicle accident would not cooperate with investigating officers.
They shoved a Watertown police officer and one of her deputies and then was charged with resisting arrest. While they would have been sent off to jail under the old system, they had to be released on appearance tickets, the sheriff said.
“They could push police officers and get an appearance ticket for that,” Sheriff O’Neill said.
Bail reform could not be happening at a worse time for the district attorney’s office.
Saying it’s already “had a devastating effect” on her 10-person office, Mrs. Mills’ office is short staffed with four assistant D.A.s either leaving or about to leave during the past three weeks.
The departures are occurring just when the bail reforms are causing an increased workload for her office.
She would not say whether the bail changes were the direct reason for the departures but the additional work caused by the reforms isn’t helping.
In fact, Mrs. Mills has been unable to fill a new position that was added to help with the changes, she said.
She expressed concern that, at some point, her office won’t be able to prosecute a case that she would have otherwise done so, Mrs. Mills said.
So far, there’s been only some talk in Albany about making changes to the new legislation.