Parole reform proposals call for expanding eligibility to violent offenders in New York

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two bills currently proposed in the New York State Senate would change the protocol surrounding parole eligibility and release.

The Elder Parole Act and Fair and Timely Parole Act are receiving mixed reaction in the Rochester community.

According to state senate website, the Elder Parole Act would allow people 55 and older who have served at least 15 years of a sentence to be considered for release on parole.

The Fair and Timely Parole Act allows the board of parole to release incarcerated people who are eligible unless they present a current and unreasonable risk that can’t be prevented by parole supervision.

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley is urging state representatives to vote against the bills.

“You’re going to have the most violent offenders in our community be released after serving just a portion of their sentence,” she said.

State senator in the 56th district, Jeremy Cooney, said this isn’t a get out of jail free card, it’s a chance for incarcerated people to have a chance. He also said it should be noted that if the Elder Parole Act passes, anyone 55 and older seeking parole would still have to appear in front of the Parole Board. Under the Fair and Timely Parole Act, the review in front of the Parole Board changes to a presumption of release.

“Individuals who may have done a wrong in the past can sometimes, in some instances, change. And the criminal justice system is not about locking up people and throwing away the key, it’s about finding improvement and opportunities for them to better themselves,” Cooney said.

Doorley also said nobody is thinking about victims in all of this.

“They went through the court process, they went through this horrific event in their lives, even though this was not going to bring their loved one back they had some sense of relief that the perpetrator would be in prison for 25 to life and that’s not going to be the case,” Doorley said.

Gates police chief James VanBrederode said he believes this legislation would harm the community.

“Predicting future behavior from people is not a perfect science,” he said. “I think this would create a lot of anxiety and stress for these victims.”

The Elder Parole Act is in the Senate committee and the Fair and Timely Parole Act is on the floor calendar.

In a press release Thursday, Doorley gave examples of Monroe County incarcerated people who could be eligible for parole under the Elder Parole Act:

45-year-old Thomas Johnson III was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for killing Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson. Under the proposed legislation, he has the potential for being released at age 55, after serving only 16 years. 

49-year-old Mark Christie, who was sentenced to life for killing 4-year-old Kali Poulton in 1996. Under these new laws, he could be released in six years at age 55.  

57-year-old Willis Knight, who kidnapped, raped and murdered 18-year-old college student Jennifer Koon in 1994, is serving a life sentence and will be eligible immediately under this legislation.

51-year-old Angel Mateo, whose murderous crime rampage in November 1996 resulted in the murder of four people, is serving a life sentence will be eligible for release in four years under this legislation.

51-year-old David Zacher stabbed his wife and 4-year-old daughter to death in their home in Greece in 2005. He also eviscerated his 2-year-old daughter who survived. He is serving life without parole. Under the proposals, he is eligible for release in 4 years. 

45-year-old Christopher Gifford was sentenced to 50 years to life for the murder of Patricia Daggett and Lachelle Weaver, will be eligible for release at age 55 after only serving half of his minimum sentence under these proposals.    

49-year-old Laura Rideout and her son murdered her ex-husband by strangling and beating him to death. After the murder, Laura and her two sons tampered with the evidence and disfigured the body. Sentenced 25 years to life, Laura Rideout would be eligible for release after only serving 15 years.

66-year-old Robert Spahalski was convicted of murdering four people from 1990-2005. Convicted in 2006, Spahalski was sentenced to life. He would be eligible for release immediately. 

63-year-old Kevin Quander admitted to the murder of Charlotte Lahr, a mom and small business owner in 2017. Quander was sentenced to a minimum of 36 years and a maximum of life in prison. If the Elder Parole Act is passed, Kevin Quander will be eligible after only serving 15 years of his sentence. 

47-year-old Frank Garcia, known as the Valentine’s Day murderer, killed a nurse and a man who attempted to intervene on Valentine’s Day in 2009. Earlier in the day, he shot and killed a different nurse and her husband in Ontario County. Under the proposals, he would be eligible for release at age 55.

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