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OPINION: N.Y. needs more than a phone call from Gov. Hochul to feel safe again

By Will Barclay


The irony of Gov. Kathy Hochul taking credit for intervening in the rearrest of convicted felon Van Phu Bui is equal parts shocking and insulting. The governor has been dormant — for far too long — as violent crime has rampaged the state. So taking a victory lap for making a phone call that shouldn’t have been needed in the first place is wildly disingenuous.

Bui, a convicted sex offender out on parole, was caught on video and arrested for sucker-punching a man [recently] — an attack that left the victim in a coma. Police had charged Bui with attempted murder, but the Bronx District Attorney’s Office inexplicably decided to downgrade the charges to misdemeanor assault and harassment. As such, he was released without bail. After public pressure continued to increase over the blatant injustice, Gov. Hochul finally decided to intervene.

There are more things wrong with this story than you can count. First, why was Bui not held, at the very least, for violating his parole terms? Moreover, considering his violent criminal history as a sex offender, why were the charges reduced at all? And in any case, he should never have been released without bail, regardless of what he was charged with, as the allegation was clearly for a violent offense. The idea that bail reform only pertains to non-violent crimes, as it was advertised at its inception, is a myth. And a dangerous one at that.

Gov. Hochul said she called the district attorney’s office to “make sure that our laws are being properly executed,” in response to Bui’s arrest and release. That’s a nice sentiment, but the concern here feels far more like an attention ploy than an earnest effort to actually make New York safer. If the governor was so inclined, she could revisit the failing reforms made to the state’s bail and parole laws and fix the problem at its root. Afterall, we’ve been asking for years, months, and now weeks for someone to use common sense and repeal these ridiculous laws. Governing in reaction to front-page headlines is no way to lead a state, and that is exactly what she’s doing here.

The Assembly Minority Conference has repeatedly expressed concerns about how dangerous the near elimination of bail in the state would be for the public. Crime is out of control. It is clear to anyone who lives in this state that it is not safe. That’s why my colleagues and I have called for a special session of the legislature to fix the broken criminal-justice system. If Gov. Hochul really wants to “get involved” and make New York safer, she knows exactly what she needs to do — fix the broken laws that led us here in the first place. If she doesn’t, she can expect to be on the phone a lot for the duration of her time in office. 

William (Will) A. Barclay, 53, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. 

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