January 27, 2008
POLITICS: Elections Have Consequences
Eliot Spitzer, like Rudy Giuliani, first made his name as a tough, hard-nosed prosecutor. Both men earned the dislike of big business for their aggressive approach to white-collar crime.
But the reason why Spitzer will never be Rudy is that he never did have the stomach to take on anybody but legitimate businesses - and certainly not violent criminals. Now, New York State is getting a bitter taste of the Spitzer approach to violent convicts.
In New York, you see, the Parole Board is run by a gubernatorial appointee, presently a Spitzer appointee named George Alexander. And what has been the result of the new management? Look at the numbers:
235 violent felons, including 215 convicted murderers, have been released by the state parole board in the first year of Gov. Spitzer's administration, records show. That's 58% more than the 148 violent felons paroled in 2006, the last year of Gov. Pataki's tenure.
Some were locked away for crimes so heinous that previous state Parole Boards refused to set them free up to five times before their luck changed under the Spitzer administration, a Daily News analysis has found.
The News report has some vivid examples of the offenders involved, including:
College student Jose Parmes was 27 in 1981 when he hurled his 10-month-old daughter out a sixth-floor window after fatally stabbing girlfriend Iris Torres, 28, and cutting off her left ear. Parmes jumped out the same window. His daughter landed on a second-floor fire escape and survived. Parmes, now 54, got 16 years to life in 1982. He was released in May after being denied parole four times.
Frank DiChiara was 35 when he fatally shot 13-year-old Germania Zurlo in February 1978. She'd arrived home from religious instruction to find him rifling through her Brooklyn apartment. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1979 and released in September after twice being denied parole. He's 65.
Louis Mortillaro was a 28-year-old bank teller when he went to the Brooklyn home of his estranged wife, Doreen, in 1983 and plunged a knife into her neck, face and back as the couple's 11-month-old daughter watched from a playpen. Detectives found Mortillaro drinking in a bar blocks from the crime scene. Mortillaro, 49, was freed in November.
More details here and here. New Yorkers voted for Spitzer - and now we are reaping the consequences.
Crank: Big fan of your site.
But in this post, you comment on these men only in the context of the crimes they committed and ignore what may or may not have happened to them in jail. Are they rehabilitated? Did they pay their debt to society (perhaps you believe that for some crimes that debt can never be paid)? Is the cost of keeping them in prison too high relative to the benefits? Was Pataki's hard line on parole crowding the prisons, creating problems far beyond the system's ability to cope with them? Certainly it is not an easy decision to release convicted killers from jail, but after decades behind bars it is certainly possible there is no benefit to retaining these middle-aged criminals as wards of the state.
Certainly the criminal justice system in America is terribly broken, and certainly tragedies that befall families at the hands of criminals can never be forgiven, but posts that aim to strike fear and demonize politicians such as Spitzer (of whom I am no fan) as being "soft on crime" add very little to the discussion. Indeed, it is the same sort of fear mongering that leads politicians to enact arbitrary and somewhat silly laws such as three-strikes-and-you're-out and heightened penalties for crack over powder cocaine.
Strange - you seem to have left out that 12 of the 19 parole board members are Pataki's appointments.
Or that there is an existing Federal lawsuit that's has a surprising amount of traction regarding Pataki's treatment of the Parole Board as a super-judge.
"The lawsuit by the inmates charged that prisoners eligible for parole were denied their constitutional rights during the Pataki administration because of what they said was the board’s unwritten policy of rejecting parole in most of the cases solely because of the severity of the crime. The lawsuit said the board failed to also take into account, as required, the degree of remorse or rehabilitation or the likelihood that the inmate would commit another crime if released."
Perhaps more are being released now because the law was not followed by Pataki's administration. Take a look at Friedgood (page 2 of that link). Hopefully with specific sentences means we won't have to hear more of this over the next 20 years.
And as for your list - I'd be hard pressed to believe that among the hundreds released by Pataki there were not the same, or worse.
"Needless to say, the shuttered facilities are all in Republican counties"
Ironman - in that link, it also talked about how Pataki tried to shut down the prisons upstate, for rather similar reasons.
I'll assume that since upstate is dominated by Republicans, it would be logical that they have similar targets.
I hold no brief for RINO Pataki. Perhaps his animus was against the correction workers union.
I live in Cheshire, CT. I do not want New Yorkers to deal first hand with the same consequences of "progressive" parole policies that created such a disaster in my home town
Dave: google "Cheshire" and "parole" and explain why what NY State is doing makes any sense
The death penalty takes care of overcrowded prisons.