The Nassau County District Attorney’s office is getting “walloped” by the state’s new discovery reform, officials said at a public forum Thursday.
The event was the first endeavor by the bail reform task force, announced last month by Nassau and Suffolk officials grappling with the new parameters of the criminal justice system.
During the discussion, the father of a man killed by an alleged drunk driver freed without bail called the reforms “egregious.”
“All of this could have been prevented,” Victor Maldonado, father of fatal crash victim Jonathan Maldonado, said at the Nassau County legislature, where officials met to discuss the controversial law.
“The law emboldens career criminals,” Maldonado said. “It needs to be changed and it needs to be changed now. The family of victims don’t want your flowers or hear I’m sorry for your loss.”
The law, which took effect Jan. 1, bars judges from setting bail on cases involving most misdemeanors and many non-violent felonies — and gives prosecutors just 15 days to turn over all evidence and a list of witnesses within 15 days of arraignment.
That’s pumped up the pressure — and the workload — on prosecutors trying to make a case, Nassau Assistant District Attorney Jed Painter said Thursday.
“Staff morale is absolutely walloped if you’re an ADA,” Painter said. “We have ADAs completely burning out. A caseload of 50 is like a caseload of thousands.”
But the most controversial fallout from the law, officials said, is that it handcuffs judges and allows suspects back out on the street where they can commit new crimes.
Painter said his office has seen the number of witness protection requests double over last year.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said that, while violent crime is down since the law took effect, overall crime is up 5.5 percent over last year, including a spike in quality-of-life crimes.
“Everyone involved wants to see change,” said Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder. “I am not politicizing the issue. I speak for the victims who can’t speak for themselves.”
Victor Maldonado told the audience he was one unwitting victim of bail reform.
His 27-year-old son, Jonathan, was killed in Suffolk County on Jan. 12 in a head-on collision with a car driven by Jordan Randolph.
Randolph, 40, who had three prior DWI convictions, had been free without bail despite an earlier arrest in Suffolk on Jan. 1 and an outstanding parole violation warrant in Nassau.
He was released without bail again after the fatal crash — until a fed-up Nassau judge ordered him arrested and ordered him jailed.
“People make mistakes, but career criminals don’t make mistakes,” Victor Maldonado said Thursday. “They will commit more crimes with the knowledge they will be released.”
“We are awarding criminals that burglarized your grandma, sold drugs to your children,” he said.