Pamelia case raises bail reform issues

Perkins

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.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(11) comments

MD

Under the old law, the danger factor does not decrease. The guy merely posts bond, then goes and harms the woman.

adr

Let me also tell you a counter story. A friend of mine was accused of a crime back in 2017 by her ex-boyfriend. I didn't believe it for a second, but apparently the government did and put her in jail pending trial or $20,000 bail. The trial was scheduled for three months away.

After the first month, the damage was done. Being locked up, she lost her job and was losing her mind in jail. Her mother and I used this month to pool our money together and paid for a bail bond. They let her out of jail.... and when the court date finally came, the judge dismissed the charges saying the state didn't meet their burden of proof. It was over.

But that money we paid for the bail bond? Just gone. So if we could raise the full $20,000, we would have gotten it all back. But since we didn't have that kind of money and went to the bail bond.... she got out of jail for $2,000 instead... but we didn't get *any* of that money back. And of course my friend didn't get her job back either after missing a month. And obviously the time in jail wasn't fun for her. Formally innocent (and of course I believe *actually* innocent too)... but the pain continued after the legal challenge was over. Most of that wouldn't have happened without the cash bail system (or if we were rich and could cough up $20,000 cash on short notice).

And I know my friend isn't the only person to have gone through something similar. THAT is why I support bail reform. But you don't see stories like that every other day in the paper.... we only get a one-sided view against the idea.

AngryNewYorker

I believe that your story is a lie. A $20,000 bail bond in New York cost $1,460 under 6804 of the Insurance Law. Your story makes it sound like the judge dismissed the case at the initial return date. As a lawyer, I have never seen that done. Basically , you are just making things up in support of a political agenda.

MD

Dear Angry New Yorker, I believe you when you say you are a lawyer, but I believe you represent upper middle class white folks. The white folks rarely get caught in the teeth of the machine. I have examples of speedy trials that were conducted six years after the arrest date, due to DA flipping between ready and not ready for trial.

Also, many examples of dismissed charges after 6 years. Bail, I have examples where it was not fully returned due to the State demanding a 10 percent fee. NY judiciary is the most corrupt I've ever seen. I have a case, now, where a client was charged with contempt, and there is no court order, or even mention of the court, in the charging documentation or discovery. These charges are only 2 years stale. You want the case? You can have it! Then tell me you are not a believer.

adr

The new law barely would have affected this case, since it is concerning a violent felony. The new law's prohibition only applies to non-violent crimes. The only way I can see it applying to this case at all is not allowing the judge to jail you simply because the government accused you of being dangerous.

Suppose you think a person is dangerous and a threat to someone. How does he suddenly become perfectly OK if he can afford to cough up ten grand (or whatever) for bail? Are rich people just automatically fine? Because that's how the old system worked.

Here, the judge determined this may might be a threat to the victim and child and ordered he stay away from them and also ordered his firearms confiscated for their protection. Those steps reduce the threat more effectively than having someone simply fork over some cash then go free.

rdsouth

I thought those accused of violent crimes weren't supposed to be released by the reforms. If there's a flaw allowing this then it might turn this initial implementation into a fatal argument against the concept. Or were these people released to make a dramatic point, rather than actually in response to the demands of the law?

Holmes -- the real one

What is so difficult about telling the difference between an arrest for a non-violent concern and one that potentially involves violence or harm to another person?

There ARE circumstances under which the arrested person should be locked up until the facts of the matter are sorted out.

There ARE circumstances under which we can be fairly certain that a person who is released will abscond and not return to court.

These are not matters which should be decided on whether the accused offender can afford bail or not. This should be determined mindfully and without prejudice as to wealth or race.

rdsouth

That's an argument for bail reform, getting rid of the cash component. Not for the virtue of the current law. My vague understanding of it is that it lists specific crimes people are charged with and requires that anybody accused of just those crimes cannot be remanded. And if this release was actually called for by the law then the law doesn't consider assault to be violent enough to call for jailing those accused of it. I guess the idea of basing it on the crime the accused is charged with rather than someone's judgment is presumably to keep possible prejudice out of it, but there's judgment in charging too. If a prosecutor wanted to keep somebody in jail they could just charge them with something on the list of crimes that get one remanded. So judgment calls need to be made. Who better to make them than a judge? In addition to "mandatory remand" and "mandatory release" categories, maybe there should be a third category that lets the judge decide--without asking for money. When things are rushed out over ambitiously before they're ready they just sabotage the supposed cause. How far back did the shuttle disasters set the space program, for example? Slow and steady wins the race. Rack up wins and your progress will be unimpeded. Looks like the over reach with this law will Willie Horton it before it gets very far. This is why those of us who care about progress are critical of possible pitfalls in ambitious new ideas. We want them to succeed because we aren't committed to a conflict oriented ideology.

AngryNewYorker

The 8th Amendment of the Bill of Rights refers to "unreasonable bail". The bail system has evolved over the past several centuries. There have been changes and modifications to it which have resulted in the vast majority of people released on their own recognizance. However, societal interests require certain offenders to face incarceration prior to conviction and this has been the case since Colonial times. Bail was a compromise to allow offenders out while the case was pending. No system is perfect, but the only people complaining about the bail system were criminals. The public at large is being outraged by the parade of hate crime perpetrators, DWI fatal crash offenders, bank robbers, etc. being released. Society at large requires immediate accountability in terms of arrest on certain crimes.

rdsouth

It should stay this way because it's been this way a while? You haven't convinced me that the bail bond industry should continue to benefit from rent or that the wealthy should get out of jail free. People who are dangerous should be locked up. People who aren't shouldn't. Regardless of money. And even if there are scary stories.

MD

It should be mindfully considered.........but it wasn't. That's why the law was changed. So far, the only ill effect of the law has been the cries of the naysayers disturbing the populace, there has not been one, not one, ill effect.

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