Last week, Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis—who happens to be running for Congress—sounded an alarm. Again.
“This evening,” the 2017 Republican candidate for mayor said in a November 21 statement, “victims, parents, advocates and supporters are gathering at the Staten Island Mall to express their outrage over roving gangs of youths that have assaulted shoppers in and around the mall and the need for increased security during the holiday shopping season.”
“The incidents at the Staten Island Mall are indicative of the rise in criminal activity throughout our city as elected officials led by Mayor Bill de Blasio have made it clear that they care more about criminals than they do about the law abiding citizens of New York,” Malliotakis continued. “Whether its [sic] lack of discipline and violence in our schools, the state laws that allow minors to escape serious punishment even after committing serious crimes or the new Criminal Justice and Bail Reform laws that take effect on New Year’s Day, one thing is clear; law-breakers are the big winners. After bail reform takes effect, 90 percent of those arrested will be returned to the streets hours later without any bail required and nothing more than a date to appear in court.”
Never mind that the number of citywide crime reports is actually down year to date, and down even more in the precinct where the mall is located, or that bizarre incidents are nothing new at the mall (see here, here and here), or that the bail reform laws in question have yet to take effect: Malliotakis has been a leading voice denouncing criminal justice reforms that, after years of advocacy, were finally adopted in Albany last spring. Bail reform and discovery reform are the focus of the ire, which has even infected the usually sober and thoughtful pages of the New York Post.
Separate from the alarmism, there are operational questions about whether district attorney offices are equipped to comply with the new burdens that come with the discovery reforms.
On WBAI’s Max & Murphy this week, we heard from Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, one of those who has expressed worries about what he sees as a lack of judicial discretion in the bail law, and potential threats to witnesses and victims in the discovery reforms; and Marie Ndiaye, supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society, who argues that basic principles of fairness, and the experience of other states, indicate New York’s reforms point in the right direction.