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Assembly Republicans join families of crime victims in call to advance Parole Board reforms; continue advocacy for Ramona’s Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2020
CONTACT: Peter Giunta, 347.621.8031

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I,Ref-Pulaski), Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda), Assemblyman Michael Reilly (R-South Shore) and their colleagues in the Minority Conference today joined the families of crime victims to call for reforms to state parole board processes as it continues to put the needs of hardened criminals over common sense and public safety. Recently, the board has made a number of highly questionable determinations by granting early release for violent individuals who have committed horrific crimes.

Earlier this month, Samuel Ayala was inexplicably paroled and released after being convicted of raping and murdering two Westchester mothers while their children were present. Herman Bell, who was convicted in 1971 of killing two police officers, was let out of prison by the parole board two years ago. Convicted cop-killer Anthony Bottom, who was imprisoned for that same murder, was granted parole last week and is expected to go free in October.

As part of their call to reform the parole board and its processes, Leader Barclay and Assembly Minority members have introduced a new bill to strengthen legislative oversight of the 19-member board, including:

  • Allowing members of the state parole board to be removed by a majority vote of the Senate and Assembly, in addition to removal by the governor;
  • Requiring a minimum of three (currently two) members of the 19-member parole board to interview inmates seeking parole; and
  • Requiring a unanimous vote of the three members for each determination on parole (currently only a majority is required).

“The recent decisions by the parole board granting release to violent offenders such as Samuel Ayala, Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom are textbook examples of what’s wrong with this board. If these heinous actions don’t warrant a full sentence, what does? We need to continue to fight for the victims of violent crimes and create laws that help protect them, not make it more difficult for them to get on with their lives,” said Leader Barclay. “New York state’s pro-criminal mentality has reached a boiling point. Simply put, victims are treated as second class while convicted felons are given priority. With this legislation and Ramona’s Law, we are demonstrating our steadfast commitment to protecting victims and their families. They deserve at least that much.”

Assemblyman Giglio, the Minority’s Ranking Member on the Corrections Committee, also expressed dissatisfaction with the state’s blatant disregard for the families of crime victims.

“New York’s nasty habit of putting victims and their loved ones on the backburner must come to an end. The mechanisms in place simply do not protect the interests of victims and are in need of drastic reform,” said Giglio. “Until the procedures and processes in place are aligned with the needs of the countless individuals suffering at the hands of violent crime, New York state will continue to be on the wrong side of justice.”

“The recent decisions made by the parole board are evidence of just how flawed our justice system is.  It is a system that routinely places the interests of violent criminals before those of victims and their families,” said Assemblyman Reilly.  “Albany Democrats took it one step further and doubled-down to create a revolving door for violent career criminals with the passage of their bail reform law last year.  We cannot let them get away with this, and that’s why I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the conference to support this legislation.”

In addition to introducing new legislation, the Minority Conference reiterated its support for Ramona’s Law (A.6663), which, among other things, would extend the maximum number of months from 24 to 60 for the time between hearings for denied parole applicants in cases where an inmate was sentenced for various violent felony offenses. Ramona’s Law is named after a Wyoming County resident who survived a violent sexual assault in 1992. Under current law, she was forced to face her attacker every 24 months at parole hearings to ensure he remained in prison. Long after the initial attack, crime victims suffer a tremendous amount of physical and psychological trauma.

Diane Piagentini, the wife of NYPD Patrolman Joseph Piagentini, who was killed by Herman Bell in 1971, added her perspective on the current parole system and her experiences.

“The recent changes to the parole guidelines by Governor Cuomo and the Legislature have made the likelihood of committing more crimes the major factor in considering an inmate for parole – virtually disregarding the nature of the crime as a consideration. This action has resulted in the release of two, three-time cop-killers, Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom. This is an injustice to my husband, Ptl. Joseph Piagentini, myself as his wife, and our children and grandchildren,” said Piagentini. “Parole of convicted cop-killers is never appropriate. If you plan and kill a police officer, you have voluntarily given up your life of freedom for the life that you have ended. This must stop, if you kill a police officer there must be NO parole even considered, they must remain in prison for the rest of their lives.”

In 1977, Jason Minter’s mother, Bonnie Minter, was raped and murdered, along with Sheila Taylor, by Samuel Ayala. Despite years of objections from the victims’ families, Ayala was granted parole on July 20 and released in early September.

“The New York state parole system failed us on every level,” said Mr. Minter. “For 18 years we have had to endure the possibility of our mother’s rapist and murderer, Sam Ayala, being released 12 times. At each hearing we had no choice but to relive the horror of what we experienced that day, in a desperate effort to keep Ayala behind bars. The two-person board presiding over Ayala’s last hearing inexplicably voted for his release, despite the crime’s unusual and acute savagery toward women and children, and Ayala’s repeated, albeit unchallenged, lies to the parole board. This is a non-partisan, common-sense issue of simple humanity, and we so much appreciate Assembly Minority Leader Barclay’s efforts to try and fix the board’s numerous issues of dysfunction. Sam Ayala’s release has transformed dread into fear for the lives of our families. The system as it works right now is utterly tortuous and dehumanizing for victims of sexual assault and violence.”

New York City PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said, “Under Governor Cuomo and the Albany Democrats, New York has become a state that puts criminals first and crime victims last. Nowhere is that more evident than in the parole board’s reckless release of murderers, rapists and cop-killers. For far too long, these radical parole commissioners have hidden behind bureaucracy while they pursued their radical, pro-criminal agenda. We commend Leader Barclay and the Assembly Minority for introducing this important bill to hold them accountable to the people they serve: decent, law-abiding New Yorkers, not vicious criminals and their paid advocates.”

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