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DA Fitzpatrick says bail reform, ‘Raise the Age,’ is killing poor, people of color

Bill Fitzpatrick.jpg
Tom Magnarelli
Onondaga County DA Bill Fitzpatrick, center, with Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner and Deputy Chief Derek McGork speak at a news conference in Syracuse Friday, July 31, 2021.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick continues to criticize New York’s bail reform and “Raise the Age” laws, saying they’re dangerous to poor and minority communities. Fitzpatrick said one recent homicide in Syracuse is a microcosm of what’s wrong with the reforms.

Four teenagers have been charged relating to the murder of Darren Rosa, 23, who was killed back in June. Fitzpatrick went through a presentation of the defendants’ past arrests, some involving shootings and armed robberies. Many of the cases were sent to family court.

“Incredibly, under the Raise the Age legislation, a knifepoint-first-degree robbery, does not automatically make one eligible for juvenile court,” Fitzpatrick said.

Some of the defendants were involved in multiple incidents where they were continually released without bail and given appearance tickets.

“The next time a legislator tells you that the proudest vote she ever made was to raise the age and vote for bail reform, show her this PowerPoint and ask her if she still is proud of that vote,” Fitzpatrick said.

New York passed “Raise the Age” in 2017, meaning 16 and 17-year-olds who commit serious crimes would no longer be housed in adult facilities; they go to juvenile detention centers. And young people who commit non-violent crimes receive intervention and treatment. Bail reform, which went into effect last year, eliminated most forms of cash bail for nonviolent offenders.

Fitzpatrick went on to compare statistics in Syracuse from 2019 to 2020: homicides up 44%, homicides by gun violence up 117%, shootings with injuries up 73%. Violent crime in Syracuse this year is about where it was last year, but it is up 15% over the past 5 years.

Fitzpatrick said state lawmakers need to go back to the table with reasonable lawyers, prosecutors and judges and get some discretion back to the judges.

“Don’t tell me that these policies are helping poor people and people of color,” he said. “They’re not. They’re killing poor people and people of color.”

He also warned about the Elder Parole bill in the state Legislature, which would allow for certain incarcerated people, 55 or older, to be eligible for parole after serving 15 years of their sentence, which Fitzpatrick called “insidious.”

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.