The Fray: Orange DA Hoovler: Condemn ‘reckless’ bail changes

The Fray: Orange DA Hoovler: Condemn ‘reckless’ bail changes

(excerpt from recordonline - Oct 5 2019)

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler invoked the hit-and-run accident in the Town of Highlands in which a motorcyclist was killed last week as a prime example of the pitfalls of bail reforms enacted this year that soon will limit the instances in which judges can jail criminal suspects.

Hoovler said the SUV driver accused of causing the death by making an illegal U-turn on Route 9W could not have been held after his arrest on Wednesday under the new bail rules set to take effect on Jan. 1, even though he’s from another country and poses a flight risk. The suspect, 55-year old Rene Morataya, of Mount Kisco, was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident and sent to Orange County jail in lieu of $20,000 cash bail.

In a statement on Thursday, Hoovler listed a couple dozen crimes, including criminally negligent homicide and aggravated vehicular homicide, for which judges will no longer be able to order suspects held on bail. Had the SUV driver been arrested after Jan. 1, he “would have had to be released from state custody, without the possibility of bail being set, despite the seriousness of the crime and despite the defendant’s ties to a foreign country,” Hoovler said, noting that Morataya faces possible deportation after the criminal case is completed.

State police say Morataya was turning around on 9W about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday when his SUV struck George Guy, of Highland Falls, on his motorcycle. Guy, 62, was thrown from his motorcycle and died at the scene. Morataya allegedly fled, and state troopers found him in Westchester County the following day.

Prosecutors and police have been railing against the impending bail restrictions, which were intended to reduce the number of people being held in jail for minor crimes because they can’t afford bail. Hoovler, in his statement on Thursday, condemned the changes as “reckless,” lambasted state lawmakers for inserting them in the budget they passed on April 1 with insufficient public discussion, and urged residents to contact their legislators to “express your concern about the negative effects that the upcoming changes in the bail laws will have.”

“Since before I took office, I have been an advocate of reform in the criminal justice system, but reform must be sensible, if it is not to result in a reduction in public safety,” Hoovler said. “I almost hesitate to call the upcoming bail changes ‘reforms,’ because they don’t change our law for the better.”

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