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New York Conservatives Propose Severe Penalty for ‘Cop Killers’

Credit: New York NOW
Credit: New York NOW

NEW YORK NOW - Members of New York’s Conservative Party, many of whom are also Republicans, held a press conference in Albany County on Monday, calling for a new mandatory minimum sentence for someone convicted of killing a police officer.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Erie County, and Assm. Michael Lawler, R-Rockland County, are sponsoring a bill that would require a person convicted of killing a police officer to serve life in prison without parole.

That proposal comes after the deaths of NYPD officers Wilbert Mora and Jason Rivera, who were shot and killed while responding to a domestic call in Harlem earlier this month.

Conservatives also said that clemency granted to former activist David Gilbert last year was among the reasons for their proposal.

Gilbert was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison for his involvement as a getaway driver in a 1981 robbery that led to the deaths of two police officers in the lower Hudson Valley.

Shortly before he left office, former governor Andrew Cuomo granted clemency to Gilbert, which led to his release late last year.

“David Gilbert was a domestic terrorist, and a cop killer. He never should have been granted clemency,” Lawler said. “It’s a disgrace, it never should have happened.”

Criminal justice reform advocates have disagreed with that position. Dr. Deborah Jenkins, the Head Pastor of Faith at Work Church in the Bronx, said the proposal is misguided.

“We grieve for all who have lost their lives to violence. We also recognize that real safety and justice comes from healing and transformation, not endless punishment,” Jenkins said.

“It says a lot about what mainstream conservatism in New York means today that the so-called pro-life party is advocating for death in prison. The party of limited government is advocating for the permanent restriction of liberty.”

Conservative Party members are also calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to remove Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg from office. Bragg said this month his office would no longer prosecute certain crimes, like fare beating and prostitution.

Consevative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar said that, in his opinion, refusing to prosecute certain crimes could put the public in danger.

“Armed robbers who use guns or other deadly weapons to stick up stores and other businesses, will be prosecuted only as misdemeanors, instead of the current Class B felony,” Kassar said.

“Criminal Possession of a Weapon, other than a gun, will be dropped from a Class D felony to a misdemeanor. And frankly speaking, misdemeanors are not treated in this state as very serious crimes.”

Bragg, meanwhile, said his strategy for the District Attorney’s office is about reducing crime through intervention and diversion. In a statement released on his official Twitter page, he shared a vision for his term.

“These policy changes not only will, in and of themselves, make us safer; they also will free up prosecutorial resources to focus on violent crime and bigger cases that make us safer,” Bragg said.

“If you are houseless with an addiction problem and you steal toothpaste and some bread, you will be diverted for treatment to help break the cycle of recidivism.”

That comes as a larger debate on safety and criminal justice, largely centered on policies like bail reform, is one of the main conversations taking place in the Legislature during this year’s session.