Brooklyn Lawmakers On The Move May 3, 2016

News Site Brooklyn

Malliotakis, Golden Bill Tightens Regs For Drug Treatment Instead Of Prison Time

Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis
Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis

Bay Ridge/Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis has introduced bill A9778, which would narrow the eligibility requirements to for those with drug convictions to enter judicial diversion to drug treatment as opposed to prison.

Dubbed “Officer Randolph Holder’s Law”, the measure is named for the late NYPD Officer Randolph Holder, who was murdered in Harlem by Tyrone Howard while pursuing him on the evening of October 20, 2015.

Howard had four felony drug convictions, 28 prior arrests and was wanted by the police in connection with a previous shooting a month earlier. Despite all this, he was able to avoid jail time by qualifying for drug treatment.  In fact, Howard had a warrant open for failing to participate in the court ordered treatment.

In 2009, prior to Malliotakis’s service in the Assembly, the state legislature voted to reduce mandatory prison sentences for some drug offenses and eliminate minimum sentence for others.   Additionally, they gave judges the ability to send drug dealers who claim to be addicts to drug treatment programs instead of prison, without so much as the approval of the district attorney.

According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, as of January 2014 the law allowed 777 felons to be resentenced with 562 released from prison altogether, amounting to 72% of drug felons being released back onto streets. Malliotakis believes there is a direct correlation between the 2009 law and the current drug epidemic in our throughout the state.

Specifically, Malliotakis’s bill would prohibit those who have more than two prior felony convictions from entering judicial diversion. It would also require the court to consider and make a finding of fact on the record, regarding the risk a defendant might pose to public safety. Additionally, it would require the consent of the district attorney before a defendant is granted entry, into a diversion program.

“Allowing drug dealers to go to treatment with addicts arrested for minor offenses is a misguided, and as we have seen first-hand, dangerous policy.  Yet, alarmingly, there are members of the legislature who oppose making these common sense changes. There is no disputing that if hardened criminal Tyrone Howard was kept in jail where he belonged, Officer Holder would be alive today,” said Malliotakis. “I encourage all law-abiding citizens to contact the Assembly Speaker Heastie’s office and demand that this bill be brought to the floor for a vote.”

State Sen. Marty Golden
State Sen. Marty Golden

Bay Ridge Sen. Marty Golden has introduced corresponding legislation, S6082, on the senate side in the hopes of making the bill a law during this current legislative session.

“It makes absolutely no sense that the criminal who killed NYPD Officer Randolph Holder was allowed to be on the streets.  This legislation is designed to get the worst of the worst off the street, understanding that repeat offenders pose a serious threat to public safety,” said Golden, a former police officer. “Alternatives to jail time offer many an escape from the justice system, and we must limit such opportunities going forward, because more innocent lives will be lost if we do not change the law.”


Gentile On Prince Hotel Drug Overdose Death

City Councilman Vincent Gentile
City Councilman Vincent Gentile

Following another drug overdose death at the Prince Hotel, Bay Ridge City Councilman Vincent Gentile yesterday said more has to be done to counter the drug addiction sweeping the city and country, and that the sooner the hotel is sold the better.

The hotel at 315 95th Street is slated to be auctioned off next month, following a raid on the building last February. Neighbors have been rankled by what they say are unsavory characters and behaviors — prostitution, fights and drugs — that the hotel’s low prices and loose policies draw to their neighborhood.Following another

“Over the weekend a middle aged male died of a drug overdose in his room at the Prince Hotel. Firstly, it is a tragedy that another individual has succumbed to drug addiction with their life. This is a nationwide and citywide epidemic that is spiraling out of control.  Secondly, any thought that the Prince Hotel is a healthy place to stay or live is simply a fallacy. The community and I look forward to the June 8th auction date of the property,” said Gentile.


 Hikind Objects To City Forcing Newly Planted Trees On Homeowners

NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind
NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind

Borough Park Assemblyman Dov Hikind recently fired off a letter to the city’s Parks Commissioner Mitchel Silver objecting to the City’s forcing newly planted trees on homeowners under its’ MillionTreesNYC beautification project.

“I’m very much in favor of New York City’s beautification efforts, which will prove to be environmental and aesthetically beneficial,” said Hikind. “Homeowners should have a right to refuse a tree planting in front of their home. Forcing homeowners against their will to adopt a tree is wrong.”

After receiving numerous calls from residents within the district voicing their objection to having a tree planted in front of their home, Hikind wrote the letter urging Silver to change NYC policy and allow homeowners the right of refusal.

“I love and support the planting of trees, however they require maintenance, which falls upon the property owner,” Hikind said. “Watering, the cleaning of falling leaves, tree limbs and debris as well as potential liability issues due to damaged and lifted sidewalks are now the responsibility of the homeowner. In addition, a planted tree may result in a narrowed sidewalk. The fact that people were not aware that trees were being planted until their sidewalk was marked and cut is simply wrong.”

Prior to the MillionTreesNYC program, trees were planted on a request basis with an option for the homeowner to decline a tree planting. Residents who wanted a tree were able to request a free planting, which was filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.


DA Thomson Vacates 20th Wrongful Conviction

District Attorney Kenneth Thompson
District Attorney Kenneth Thompson

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced yesterday that, as a result of a thorough investigation by his Conviction Review Unit, he will move to vacate a second-degree murder conviction against Paul Gatling, 81, who pleaded guilty during trial to escape a possible death penalty.

“Paul Gatling repeatedly proclaimed his innocence even as he faced the death penalty back in the 60s. He was pressured to plead guilty and, sadly, did not receive a fair trial. Today, 52 years later, he will be given back his good name and receive justice here in Brooklyn, where he once called home,” said Thompson.

Thompson described the facts of the case as follows: On October 15, 1963 at approximately 8 p.m., police officers assigned to the now-former 80th Precinct responded to a report that a man had been murdered inside of his home, located at 1480 Bedford Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The officers discovered the victim, Lawrence Rothbort, 43, a local painter and sculptor, lying face down in a pool of blood. He died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

The victim’s pregnant wife, Marlene, and their two children were present in the kitchen with Mr. Rothbort at the time of the shooting.  Mrs. Rothbort informed the officers that her family had just finished dinner when a “Negro” man holding a shotgun walked into their first floor art gallery/apartment and demanded money. The victim refused and was shot once in the chest. An eyewitness observed the intruder walk out of the building and continue down Bedford Avenue. Mrs. Rothbort provided her description of the intruder to a police sketch artist, and the police canvassed the area for a month, but could never recover the murder weapon or find possible suspects.

On November 15, 1963, detectives questioned Paul Gatling, 29, after questioning Grady Reaves over the course of several days. Reaves told police that he saw Gatling in the vicinity of the murder at the time of the shooting.

Gatling’s conviction relied heavily on the eyewitness testimony of Reaves and Mrs. Rothbort. However, Reaves had been a cooperating witness in multiple cases and is known to have committed perjury at least once. Reaves testified that on the night in question he and a companion, Joseph Hardy, were outside  his home when he heard what sounded like a car backfire, and claims he saw the defendant crossing an intersection on Bedford Avenue. Approximately 30 to 45 minutes later he said the defendant approached Hardy and himself inquiring about the Rothbort murder.

Mrs. Rothbort, who was nine months pregnant when she testified at trial, said that Gatling was the man who shot her husband, despite failing to identify him out of a line-up prior to trial. The victim’s 7-year-old son testified as an unsworn witness and said he could recognize the intruder, but that the man who killed his father was not in the courtroom. No physical evidence connected Gatling to the crime.

Gatling’s defense attorney and family urged him to plead guilty to second-degree murder towards the end of his trial to avoid the death penalty, and fearing the jury sympathized with the pregnant widow. After getting assurances from his attorneys and family that they would continue to look for the real killer, the defendant pleaded guilty to escape death row. He was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison in October 1964 after a hearing on a motion to withdraw his plea was denied.

In December 1973, on his last day in office, Governor Nelson Rockefeller commuted the defendant’s sentence at the urging of the Legal Aid Society, which had taken up his case. Gatling’s sentence was commuted and he was released from prison in January 1974.

After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, the CRU determined that the defendant was deprived of his right to a fair trial based on several issues, including Rosario andBrady violations. The defense was never provided with key police reports concerning the murder, including a description of the shooter as being around 17 to 20 years old, and was never informed of Reaves’ repeated use as a prosecution witness and prior perjury.

The CRU investigated the case after receiving a letter from Gatling. To date, the work of the Conviction Review Unit, which is led by Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale, has resulted in 20 convictions being vacated. In addition, the CRU has found that of the cases reviewed thus far, 38 convictions are just and will not be recommended to be vacated.  Approximately 100 cases are pending review.


Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack’s Death Mourned

Justice Arthur Schack
Justice Arthur Schack

Bay Ridge City Council Member Vincent Gentile and Democratic District Leaders Kevin Peter Carroll and Lori Citron Knipel morned the death of New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack’s death yesterday.

Schack,  a former city social studies teacher, graduated from New York Law School in 1980 and went on to serve as counsel to the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1982 to 2002. His judicial career began with his 1999 election to the Kings County Criminal Court.

“I will always remember Justice Schack as a kind and compassionate and brilliant friend. Whether he was discussing his latest court decision or a major league baseball game, he did it with a style and flair of his own,” said Gentile. “Justice Schack made a positive impact on me and those he touched. I will miss him and his insight and his brilliance. I send my sympathy to his loving wife Dilia and to his children and family. This is a big loss to our community and to the judicial system. May he rest in peace.”

In a Facebook post, Carroll wrote, “Words can’t describe, today a very good friend of mine Judge Arthur Schack passed away. Dilia and Arthur have been such great friends and mentors to me. When my father died they let me stay with them as I made calls. Their kindness can’t be expressed in a Facebook post. I am at such a loss. God bless him and his whole family.”

Knipel responded to the post writing, “With great sadness & a heavy heart, Judge Arthur Schack passed away today. Artie was truly one of a kind. My heart goes out to Dilia, their family & all that knew & loved him. May his memory always serve as a blessing.”

KCP also expresses its condolences to Dilia, who is the female Democratic Party District Leader in Coney Island and the Schack family.

 

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