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After Katko push, feds to study failures of pre-trial release, electronic ankle monitors

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media File Photo
Bill Cregg, center, and Rep. John Katko, far left, in 2019.

The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, will undertake a comprehensive study of the failure of the pre-trial release system and the use of electronic ankle monitors. Syracuse-area Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) pushed for the review, which could be the first step to revamping a system that has been responsible for deadly failures.

Bill Cregg has been pushing for changes in the rules around pre-trial release for years. He has a personal reason. He was the first person on the scene of the most high-profile failure of that system in central New York, when he happened upon Lori Bresnahan on the side of a road in Clay in March of 2013. She was dying after being abducted by David Renz, who stabbed her to death, and raped her daughter. Renz was on pre-trial release, and had taken apart his electronic ankle monitor, in the process, generating 46 alerts that he had tampered with the bracelet.

"It was nearly eight years ago that I stated that Lori and our community deserved answers on the failures of pre-trial release and electronic monitoring, that allowed David Renz to steal Lori Bresnahan from all of us,” Cregg said. “Today is day one of getting those answers.”

Cregg said this GAO review can expose problems in the system that led to Bresnehan’s death, as well as 100 similar murders across the country. Among other things, they’ll study the number and types of crimes involving individuals on pre-trial release, the response of probation and pretrial services when there is evidence of tampering, and staffing challenges these services face. Once he sees the report, Katko said the next step would be crafting legislation based on those findings and recommendations.

“It is our fervent hope that this effort will lead to safer communities, and ensure that tragedies like the one we saw in 2013 will be prevented,” Katko said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.