It has been two months since the state’s bail reform law took effect on Jan. 1, and both the Malverne Police Department and village officials’ concerns over the changes remain the same. The law requires the village to immediately turn over all evidence in criminal cases to the Nassau County district attorney’s office.
Once the D.A.’s office has received the evidence, county officials must provide copies to a defendant or defense team within 15 days after an indictment.
Malverne Police Chief John Aresta said that while his department averages only about 100 case discoveries per year, the new law’s requirements have already increased the workload. “We’ve had to increase our overtime and have an officer called in to make tapes to send over to the district attorney’s office,” Aresta explained. “We just don’t have the manpower for it. Unfortunately, this is something that’s been jammed down our throats.”
Aresta, a past president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, said that he and other police chiefs from Long Island made a trip to Albany last month to protest the criminal justice reform bill.
“Discovery dramatically affects this village,” said Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett, who has met with representatives of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, among other state officials. “It’s almost impossible to have that evidence checked and sent to D.A. within a 15-day period. We need $850,000 more just to pay for the overtime and the things needed to comply with discovery.”
Aresta noted the murder of Wilmer Maldonado Rodriguez, who was prepared to testify against MS-13 members who allegedly assaulted him in October 2018. Rodriguez’s body was discovered on Feb. 2. While it was believed that his identity was revealed to the defense as part of the pre-trial process under the new discovery law, this turned out not to be the case. The prosecution protected Rodriguez’s identity through a protective order in December 2018, according to Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas. However, his identity was disclosed through a judge’s order last December.
In January, Hempstead resident Romell Nellis was arrested and charged with robbing a Roslyn Savings Bank branch in West Hempstead and another bank in Valley Stream. He was released in accordance with the bail reform law — bail is no longer permitted for bank robbery, a nonviolent felony — and on Feb. 11, he was arrested for robbing the same West Hempstead bank.
“We need to reverse course immediately,” State Assemblyman Ed Ra, a Republican who represents West Hempstead, stated in a news release. “Every single day, we’re seeing good people get hurt because dangerous, serial offenders can simply walk out of their arraignment and back into our communities. We know it’s wrong, and we believe that Democrats do, too. We just need them to put politics aside and finally do the right thing.”
“While I don’t agree with it, unfortunately, the bail component probably isn’t changing, and that’s sad,” Corbett said, adding of the state Legislature, “I think it’s irresponsible what happened up there.”
Corbett said he hoped state lawmakers would consider revising the discovery law, and proposed the idea of extending the deadline to 30 or 45 days. Aresta, who said that crime in Nassau County is up 6 percent since January, added that he hoped lawmakers would find some middle ground.
“The only way we’re going to get change is through our Senate and Assembly people,” Aresta said. “I would urge people to keep up on what’s going on. Our village is safe, but it’s making our job a lot more difficult.”