March 18, 2023
Dear Wellsville Sun:
I visit your site every day. I look there for news and information. I often disagree with the political perspectives published there, but I accept that editorial choices are discretionary and made for myriad reasons.
In Friday’s edition you continued your tawdry ‘series’ titled Bail Reform Disgrace with the bilious headline, “Steuben County child abuser arrested, released.” This series has no byline, leaving readers to assume that Wellsville Sun staff composed it from facts provided by the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department.
First, in these United States, a person is innocent of all charges until proven guilty in a court of law. The Sun regularly publishes articles under the editor’s byline detailing arrests that include this reminder, such as Thursday’s piece about alleged grand larceny in Alfred. Why does this reminder not appear in Friday’s article?
Second, in the State of New York, the alleged offense in Friday’s article is a Class B felony. Under New York’s bail statute, this is a non-violent offense for which the law provides multiple pre-trial options.
At arraignment, a judge has the option to impose bail or even to remand to custody for a Class B felony if certain legal conditions are met. Absent those conditions, the court must release defendants on their own recognizance unless there is a demonstrated risk of flight to avoid prosecution.
NOTE: A judge could set money bail for a B Felony sex offense both before and after bail reform, so the fact that this defendant was released cannot be attributed to bail reform.
Opponents of NYs bail law are determined to spread more misinformation and fear, deliberately attempting to stoke outrage without concern that it is based on a false premise.
Let us remember that the purpose of bail and pretrial incarceration is to ensure a defendant stands trial. Judges must not impose a subjective view of dangerousness when deciding the release conditions. In other words, courts must preserve the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
And so, Wellsville Sun, should you. Shame on you for publishing this information in a manner so obviously meant to manipulate reader emotions and foment outrage.
No doubt the article, titled as it was and accompanied by that click-bait graphic, was more widely read than had it been titled “Steuben County teen arrested, released” or “Steuben County man arrested, released,” both of which are factual and do not imply guilt.
The editorial choice made by publishing this article is one best left to the tabloids.
Representative, Angelica District 2
Allegany County Democratic Committee