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New York Judge Locates Obscure Statute That Lets Him Bypass Bail Reform Laws

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Hecht used the 40-year-old law to keep a repeat felon behind bars.

Brooklyn, NY – A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge used a 40-year-old statute to bypass New York’s bail reform law in order to keep a repeat felon behind bars.

The rarely-used law enables judges to hold certain persistent felony offenders in jail for up to 90 days, according to the New York Post.

Career criminal Casey Knight, 51, had seven prior felony convictions when he was arrested on another burglary charge in November of 2018.

In that case, Knight allegedly smashed out a window and stole over $3,000 worth of jewelry.

He was held on bail for over a year until Dec. 3, 2019, when Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Barry Warhit released him without bail in anticipation of the bail reform laws that went into effect on Jan. 1, the New York Post reported.

Knight promptly broke into three other homes, stealing shoes, video games, electronics, and music equipment over a period of two weeks, according to prosecutors.

He was apprehended on Feb. 1.

Five days later, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Hecht applied the 40-year-old statute to Knight’s case, noting that the older law had not been affected by the bail reform measures, the New York Post reported.

“The exclusion of burglary in the second degree simply isn’t there,” Hecht ruled. “Accordingly, based on all these factors, the court concluded that the least restrictive condition to reasonably assure his return was remand for a period of 90 days.”

Former Manhattan prosecutor Bennett Gershman, who is now a law professor, said that by doing the “right thing” and using the statute, Hecht “recused a very bad situation,” the New York Post reported.

Gershman also blasted bail reform as a whole, and said that lawmakers had created “embarrassing” lapses in the state’s criminal justice system.

But former public defender Jocelyn Simonson, who is also now a law professor, said that Hecht’s use of the rarely-used statute was unfair to accused criminals.

“This is not a result that should be happening,” Simonson complained to the New York Post. “He’s going out of his way to make a ruling that he didn’t have to make.”

The Legal Aid Society, which is representing Knight on his slew of pending criminal matters, said it is looking into the judge’s ruling to determine how to proceed.

Holly Matkin - February Mon, 2020


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