NY Release After 4 Bank Charges Called Bail Law Flaw

Gerod Woodberry robbed a Brooklyn bank of $1,000 on Jan. 10. Four hours earlier, he was released from custody under a new New York law that abolished bail for most nonviolent offenses. He had been charged with stealing or attempting to steal from four other banks. “I can’t believe they let me out,” he told a detective, the New York Times reports. The Brooklyn heist was the fifth time in 12 days that he had either robbed or attempted to rob a bank, prosecutors said. Law enforcement officials cite the events involving Woodberry, 42, as an example of the risk inherent in the state bail law that took effect Jan. 1. Woodberry’s case was shifted to federal court on Friday after he turned himself in.

New Jersey, California, Illinois and other states have limited the use of bail. New York is one of the few states to abolish bail for many crimes without allowing judges to consider whether a person poses a threat to public safety in deciding whether to hold them. Before the law took effect, district attorneys, judges, county legislators and law enforcement officials warned that it could put dangerous criminals back on the street. “No sound, rational and fair criminal justice system requires the pretrial release of criminal defendants who demonstrate such determination to continuously commit serious crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue in the Eastern District of New York. Woodberry’s lawyer, Samuel Jacobson, said the argument that his initial release was an example of flaws in the new law was unfounded. Woodberry’s case is the latest that critics of the bail reform statute say illustrates a dangerous loophole in state law.

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