Lawmakers, sheriff, victims call for hold on bail reform

Mark Mulholland
Updated: November 12, 2019 05:23 PM
Created: November 12, 2019 01:06 PM

CLIFTON PARK -- Michael Stewart doesn't get it. "We are going to allow this person to go home. That's absurd," Stewart said Tuesday morning about new bail laws that will allow defendants to go free without posting bail in most cases.

Michael and Regina Stewart lost their son, Christopher, to a drugged and distracted driver in 2012. Dennis Drue was impaired, speeding and texting when he caused the crash that killed Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers. Under the bail laws that take effect January 1, Drue would've been issued an appearance ticket after he was arraigned.

 "So while the family is suffering and devastated over what happened, the offender is at home through no cash bail," said Regina Stewart

The Stewarts stood beside Sen. Jim Tedisco, Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, District Attorney Karen Heggen and Sheriff Mike Zurlo to denounce the new laws because they take away the judge's discretion to set bail.

"And that is gone with this legislation. Totally gone," said Heggen.

Tedisco and Walsh are hopeful they can convince their colleagues in the legislature to hold a special session and vote on a 1-year moratorium.

"Press the pause button, be reflective and have 10 hearings across the 10 regions of the state of New York and really listen this time. Listen to the unintended consequences."

The Stewarts say to them, the law makes it feel like defendants have more rights than victims.

"Have them stand in our families shoes for just one day, I can guarantee you they have a different perspective," said Michael.

Sheriff Zurlo says his officers are currently looking for roughly 300 people. He says that could double next year when defendants are allowed to go free without bail.

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