Giglio joins in GOP call to repeal bail reform

Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio (at podium) speaks during a press conference Wednesday in Albany calling for the repeal of bail reform in New York state.

Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio joined Republican colleagues Wednesday in calling for the repeal of bail reform measures passed and enacted for the new year.

“Protecting the citizens of New York State is of utmost importance,” Giglio said during a press conference in Albany. “Recent tragedies which have occurred in our communities make clear the need to repeal these changes.”

The GOP call was led by new Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, along with members of the Assembly Republican Conference.

At the press conference, lawmakers were joined by families directly affected by the new bail laws, and law-enforcement officials who expressed concerns with the new requirements.

The mother of a Syracuse homicide victim Wednesday morning stood next to state Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, to decry the state’s recently enacted bail reform.

Jennifer Payne, of Syracuse, whose daughter, Sarah Tombs, 22, was shot to death, blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Democrats for passing a law that allowed her daughter’s killer to be freed before trial.

“This is unacceptable,” Payne said, according to syracuse.com. “My daughter’s killer is walking the streets as my family and I continue to pick up the pieces from the trauma.”Tombs was killed by her boyfriend, Darien Shellman, in the Syracuse apartment they shared with Tombs’ 4-year-old daughter. The child ran into the bedroom moments after Shellman’s gun went off, shooting Tombs in the head.

Shellman admitted to the shooting, but has said it was an accident and prosecutors are pursuing an unintentional manslaughter charge. Intentional homicides can still result in bail, while unintentional ones cannot, syracuse.com reported.

A judge had set bail for Shellman at $75,000 cash or $150,000 bond after his April 2019 arrest under the old rules. But the same judge, state Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy, said last week that he had no choice under bail reform but to release Shellman pending trial.

“These laws are simply unworkable from a legal and law enforcement standpoint,” said Giglio, who has a background in law enforcement. “Judicial discretion is being assaulted by these laws and lawyers are being forced to conduct pretrial discovery in ways that are unprecedented.”

Advocates pointed out Wednesday that Tombs’ death was not a typical homicide in that Shellman admitted to the killing, saying it was an accident.

He’s a Navy veteran, has no criminal record, called 911 after the shooting and remained on scene until police arrived.

GOP lawmakers argue the reforms, which went into effect Jan. 1, were painted as a way to improve bail procedures for low-level, non-violent offenders. In reality, the lawmakers say, the reforms amount to a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for dangerous individuals.

Also in attendance at the press conference was Sheila Harris, cousin of Maria “Rosie” Osai, a 35-year-old mother of three who was struck and killed by an unlicensed, hit-and-run driver in Rockland County on Christmas Eve.

The driver was immediately released without bail pursuant to the new law.

“This is bad policy that jeopardizes the integrity of the judicial system,” Giglio said.

Area law enforcement officials, including Olean City Police Chief Jeff Rowley, Cattaraugus County Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb and Allegany County Sheriff Ricky L. Whitney, have expressed concerns with the bail and other criminal justice reforms that were passed this past year.

(Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is jeckstrom@oleantimesherald.com.)