Monday, January 28, 2019

Cuomo's bail reform plan causes controversy

Officials and others weigh in on Governor Cuomo's bail reform plan
As part of his renewed push to reform the criminal justice system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing to eliminate cash bail for minor offenses.

Some on the law enforcement side said the proposal is not a well thought out plan, but others see it as a way to level the playing field for people accused of minor crimes.


While not entirely against it, Defense Attorney Robert King of Robert King Law Firm admits the plan isn't foolproof. “There’s too many times that judges are setting too high of bail. There’s too many times where trials are postponed too long. I think the governor's heart is certainly in the right place,” said King. “The law is not black-and-white, so to say this is what you have to do all the time there’s going to be times where it’s inappropriate.”


Gates Police Chief Jim VanBrederode said without bail suspects won't have a reason to come back to court and that could delay a case, and add to the backlog that already exists.

According to VanBrederode, there are nearly 830 outstanding warrants in Gates along and many date back a decade. “Justice delayed is justice denied, because behind every crime there is a victim. It's really not fair to the victim when the cases end up at a standstill,” he said. “It's going to create a problem with the criminal justice system; it's going to slow the system down even more and it's just going to create a bigger backlog in our opinion.”

In at least one other state, a similar bail plan backfired on the defendants:

Last year Maryland's courts approved changes to the state's bail system, instructing judges not to deny defendants the possibily of release if they were too poor to afford a cash bail demand. The intent was that defendants be jailed prior to trial only if they were flight risks or a danger to the community, not simply because they didn't have enough money.

Unfortunately, at least in Baltimore, the plan is backfiring. WBAL-TV, the local NBC affiliate, reports that the number of people detained in jail is rising, even as the number of arrests is dropping. Comparing March 2017 to March 2018, the station found that the average number of people jailed each day jumped 31 percent, from 655 to 856...

What's happening is easy to explain: Instead of making cash bail affordable, Baltimore's judges are choosing not to grant it at all in many cases where they previously would have.

The above article also touches upon the idea that eliminating cash bail for minor offenses could constitute an another "unfunded mandate," forcing counties to expand pretrial services and monitoring programs.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Martin Luther King Day

Ronald Reagan:
"Each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us -- if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King's dream comes true, and in his words, "All of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning. . . land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

(President Reagan, Coretta Scott King, Bob Dole and others at the signing ceremony for HR 3706 making the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday. 11/2/1983)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Former “Big pharma” CEO pleads guilty to opioid kickback scheme: Schuyler County among area counties suing ‘big pharma.’

The former chief executive of Insys Therapeutics Inc., one of the pharmaceutical companies being sued by Schuyler County and other area municipalities over prescription painkillers, pleaded guilty on Wednesday (January 9) to participating in a nationwide scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe an addictive opioid medication.

Michael Babich, who resigned as the company’s CEO in 2015, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy and mail fraud charges.  The federal government alleges that, from 2012 to 2015, Babich and others conspired to bribe doctors to prescribe Subsys, a prescription opiate for managing severe pain in cancer patients. 

Insys is one of the big pharmaceutical companies being sued by various New York State municipalities, including Schuyler County.  In May of last year, Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman filed a nearly 250-page Summons and Complaint for damages to the County arising out of the fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opiates in the County. 

“This plea is potential evidence to Schuyler County,” Getman said.  “A criminal conviction establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and, in certain circumstances, can establish civil liability for fraudulent activity.”

“Under the plea, Insys paid doctors kickbacks in the form of fees to participate in speaker programs that were actually sham events,” Getman noted.  “The allegation that Insys created a sham ‘speaker program’ is part of our complaint.”

“Schuyler County’s lawsuit will move forward to seek reimbursement for expenses related to the opioid crisis as well as to provide the County with financial aid to fight addiction, overdoses, drug-related crimes and drug deaths,” Getman stated.

In 2017, the County Legislature voted to retain the firm of Napoli Shkolnik to work with Getman, as special counsel, to bring an action against the manufacturers and distributers of prescription opiates for damages to the County. 

According to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, that lawsuit was filed at no risk to the County, as Napoli Shkolnik will work on contingency basis that will cover all costs associated with the lawsuit.

“By going forward with litigation, the County Legislature hopes to lessen the burden to taxpayers and hold manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic,” O’Hearn said.

Schuyler County is one of several New York municipalities filing lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers.  At least 14 counties across New York are suing pharmaceutical companies for what they are claiming are deceptive marketing practices.

Also, in February 2018, New York State officials filed a lawsuit against Insys alleging that it deceptively promoted Subsys for unsafe uses and violated state law by downplaying drug’s addictive risks.

Babich's plea was made in Federal Court in Boston.

The counties' lawsuit is pending in Suffolk County, New York.

A complete copy of Schuyler County’s Summons and Complaint can be found here.

Monday, January 7, 2019

New report questions effectiveness of supervised drug consumption facilities

From the Washington Post:
(E)xisting research does not establish that drug users who access SDCFs are less likely to die of an overdose over time, or that opening an SDCF lowers a community’s rate of drug overdose fatalities...

The report found that many people use SDCFs intermittently, but do not adopt the safer use practices from SDCFs when using outside of it. An individual who injects heroin in the SDCF one day may thus avoid a fatal overdose that particular day, but have one the next day outside the SDCF. More importantly, no one knows whether becoming an SDCF user leads to longer drug use careers than do other interventions (e.g., methadone maintenance). If by making injection drug use safer and more positive (e.g., being surrounded by supportive people), SDCFs even modestly reduce the likelihood of an individual stopping injection use in the next week, or month, or year, the benefit of lower risk SDCF drug use now can be canceled out by an increased number of drug use episodes later.

Read the complete article here. Read the underlying report here.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Schuyler County seeks candidates for assistant county attorney position

Schuyler County is seeking to fill the position of Assistant County Attorney.  The position is full time, 35 hours per week, with excellent benefits.  Candidates must have been admitted to, and be a member of good standing with, the Bar in the State of New York and must be legal residents of Schuyler or a contiguous (Chemung, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates) county upon taking office and remain so during the entire term of appointment.

Salary commensurate with experience plus excellent benefit package. All candidates must submit a Civil Service application, along with a resume, a writing sample and three (3) professional references. Information must be submitted to the Schuyler County Civil Service office.  

Applications will be accepted until position is filled.  Interested candidates may visit the Schuyler County website ( for the application form and job description -or- contact the Schuyler County Civil Service Office, 105 9th Street, Unit 21, Watkins Glen, New York 14891. Phone: 607-535-8190

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Schuyler County Legislature Holds Reorganizational Meeting.

Republican Dennis Fagan, of Tyrone, was re-elected Chair of the Schuyler County Legislature at its annual reorganizational meeting held Wednesday (January 2, 2019).

The vote was 7-1 with the legislature’s sole democrat, Michael Lausell of Hector, as the one “no” vote. 

In other action, the legislature unanimously reappointed Tim O’Hearn of Watkins Glen as County Administrator for a four-year term.
Stacy Husted, of Montour Falls, remains clerk of the legislature and Steven Getman,  of Watkins Glen, continues as Schuyler County Attorney.

Prior to the voting, County Court Judge Dennis Morris administered the oath of office to re-elected legislators Carl Blowers (District V) and Phil Barnes (District VI).

The County of Schuyler is governed by an eight-person legislature, headed by its Chair.  Members serve staggered four-year terms.    The legislature, in turn, appoints various department heads to oversee the county’s day to day operations, including the county administrator, county attorney and clerk to the legislature.

The current members of the legislature are James W.D. Howell, Jr., Carl H. Blowers, David M. Reed, Michael L. Lausell, Mark F. Rondinaro, Van A. Harp, Philip C. Barnes and Dennis A. Fagan, Chairman