Two videos of a man giving information to police posted on social media for the world to see highlight the shortcomings of the bail reform measures passed by the state Legislature, said Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt.
The two videos published to YouTube in June are of a man, allegedly a participant in one of the many shootings that have rocked the Capital City, giving an Albany police investigator information on that crime, the name of other people involved and information on people involved on other crimes like burglaries and gun purchases.
“State Senate Democrats failed to heed our warnings that bail reform and discovery reform presented real danger to real people. Now, in addition to all the failures of bail reform, two videos of a witness posted on YouTube pose a threat to a human being,” said Ortt, a Republican lawmaker from western New York in a statement. “Why would anyone want to risk their safety to talk to police or testify if sensitive information like this could be circulated on social media? Once again, this is a major public safety fail.”
The main facet of bail reform — which was passed last year and went into effect on Jan. 1 — removed cash bail for a host of crimes which would, in theory, stop those who are presumed innocent but cannot afford bail from sitting in jail as the case proceeds through the judicial system while a person convicted of the same crime but who can afford bail is allowed out.
An ancillary aspect of the package of laws deals with discovery, or the sharing of information between prosecutors and defense attorneys. Prosecutors used to hold onto that evidence until no sooner than 30 days before the start of a trial but now must release it to the defense at the onset of a case — no more than 15 days after arraignment — rather than the end. Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney, during a press conference late last year, said the new timeline is unnecessary since only 5 percent of the cases go to trial and could put a witness in danger and hinder cooperation. If a plea deal is reached before trial, the evidence is not shared.
“The defendant never knew the ID of cooperating witnesses but now we have to tell the cooperating witness we are going to turn over your ID and your contact information 15 days after the arraignment,” he said.
One of the videos posted on YouYube is tagged “Rat Files” and the second is titled with four rat emojis. According to Ortt, it was turned over by the Albany County District Attorney’s Office to a defense attorney under the new bail reform legislation. They got thousands of views.
Since the laws went into effect, a number of law enforcement officials from across the state have been critical and warned of the above outlined scenario playing out.