Three men incarcerated at the Putnam County Correctional Facility on pending criminal charges had to be released under new criminal justice reforms that took effect Jan. 1, announced Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley Jr. last week.
The 2019-20 New York State Budget included sweeping changes to the way defendants are remanded following their arrests and before their criminal trials begin. Under these reforms, courts now must release defendants on their own recognizance pending trial unless the court makes a determination that they pose a flight risk.
According to Langley, among those released was 40-year-old Javier Lorenzano-Fercano, who was charged in the fall with leaving the scene of a fatal automobile accident, a class D felony.
It is alleged that Oct. 25, Lorenzano-Fercano was driving in Philipstown when he struck and killed a 38-year-old man and then fled the area without reporting the incident. He was arrested the next day in Dutchess County.
When Lorenzano-Fercano was released, immigration officials took him into custody on an ICE detainer.
Also released from the Putnam County Correctional Facility under the new criminal justice reforms were 50-year-old Suffolk County resident James McInerney, who is charged with second-degree grand larceny, a class C felony; and 28-year-old Brooklyn resident Dusean Davis, who is charged with first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, also a class =C felony.
According to the New York State Senate, the goal of the Bail Elimination Act of 2019 is to end the use of monetary bail in 90 percent of arrests, reduce unnecessary pretrial incarceration, and improve equity and fairness in the criminal justice system.
“One of the central tenets of our criminal justice system is that a person is ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ yet the current bail system has allowed the incarceration of tens of thousands of unconvicted New Yorkers every year,” reads the bill, which was drafted last year. “On any given day, there are approximately 16,000 legally innocent New Yorkers locked in jails across the state, most because they cannot afford the bail set on their cases.”
The bill claims the former bail system imposed a wide range of “devastating costs” on defendants, families and taxpayers.
“This bill would correct one of the great injustices of our criminal justice system by ending the use of monetary bail, reducing unnecessary pretrial incarceration and improving equity and fairness in the criminal justice system,” it reads.
However, the bill has also come under much scrutiny by lawmakers both local and statewide.
Putnam County District Attorney Robert Tendy has been an outspoken critic of the reforms. In a social media post, he described a situation in which incarceration can be beneficial to someone awaiting trial.
“When I was a defense attorney I had a client who was a terrible heroin addict,” he wrote. “My client’s parents paid for his legal defense and I told the parents that if they let their son out of jail by posting bail I would not take the case. Many defense attorneys have taken the same position because they have concern for their clients. Keeping them in jail during the pendency of the case allowed them to have their brains rewired to the point that they were thinking clearly enough to realize they needed help. It also had the beneficial effect of making sure that the client did not go out and die of a heroin overdose.
“Under the new law, the drug addict will be returned immediately to the street to die of a heroin overdose or perhaps get into much worse trouble as a result of the addiction – and there is nothing his family or concerned attorney, or the concerned prosecutor, can do about it,” continued Tendy. “What kind of reform is that?”
Senate Republicans have introduced an amendment to roll back the law.