Sheriff Cites Recidivism in Release of Accused Under Bail Reform Laws

A local man with a series of arrests is one of several cases cited by Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon as an example of problems with the new bail reform laws.

Lonnie Pernell, 23, who is identified as homeless but living in Centerport, was in and out of the county jail five times in November and December on charges of first-degree criminal contempt. Each time, the sheriff’s department said, he was released on his own recognizance under the guidelines of the new  law.

Pernell was arrested for continued intentional disobedience or resistance of the lawful order of the court by violating that court’s order. After each arrest he was released on his own recognizance. Under the new law, the judge was required to release him instead of having him held on higher bail levels.

The reforms ended cash bail for all misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges in New York State took effect Jan.1.

In Suffolk County, 301 inmates were released by the courts under this new law in the month leading up to its enactment. These are inmates who otherwise would have been held on bail or bond, depending on the severity of the crime and the defendant’s past criminal history.

The new bail reform law does for the court to accept a partially secured bail bond through the court system, rather than through a bail bondsman.

“Judges used to have some discretion on whether or not an individual should be held on bail,” says Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. “Now, it is black and white – no bail for these crimes, regardless of the impact to the community. The offender will be given a court date and told to come back for court.”

Toulon noted some of the inmates who have a history of recidivism but have been released.

Dwayne Ross, 46, of Shirley,  was arrested in early December for strangulation in the second degree. He posted a bond and was released, only to be arrested two weeks later for criminal contempt in the second degree. The judge was unable to use his recent arrest for strangulation as a factor in the decision of whether to set bail. 

Fidel Portillo, 39, of El Salvador, was arrested in July of 2019 for rape in the 1st degree and course of sexual conduct with a child in the 1st degree. He was held on $200,000 bail / $400,000 bond. On Dec.30 , under the new court provided partially secured bond, he was released after posting just 10% of his bond, or $40,000, and surrendering his passport. Portillo is due back in court Jan. 14.

Dwayne Robinson, 33, of Amityville, NY, recently posted bond after being arrested for assault in the 2nd degree. Despite his alleged crime and his association with the Bloods street gang, under the new bail reform law he was able to post a small bond of $5,000 and was released.

Toulon’s office noted that some of the crimes covered by the  no-bail law include:

  • Assault in the third degree
  • Aggravated vehicular assault
  • Aggravated assault upon a person less than eleven years old
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Aggravated vehicular homicide
  • Manslaughter in the second degree
  • Unlawful imprisonment in the first degree
  • Coercion in the first degree
  • Arson in the third and fourth degree
  • Grand larceny in the first degree
  • Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds or criminal possession of a firearm
  • Specified felony drug offenses involving the use of children, including the use of a child to commit a controlled substance offense and criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child
  • Promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child
  • Possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child
  • Promoting a sexual performance by a child

Toulon noted that by avoiding jail, suspects will not have access to the programs and services of the correctional system, including drug and alcohol treatment, education and other programs.

Human trafficking is also a big problem in Suffolk County, and many human trafficking victims are only identified and helped once they enter the facility on an unrelated charge. Once in the facility, steps are taken to identify these victims and help them move on from their traffickers. 

 “As we look at the effects of the ‘official’ enactment of bail reform, there are clearly serious issues with this state law. Judges MUST have discretion to determine bail based on a criminal defendant’s likelihood to re-offend and cause further pain to his or her victims and the public at large,” Toulon said. “The New York State Legislature should amend or repeal bail reform now.”

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