Aug. 4, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
Queens Council Member Robert Holden has introduced a resolution calling on state lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow judges to set bail when dealing with defendants who face hate crime charges— no matter their severity.
The resolution, introduced on July 29, aims to address the increase in the number of hate crimes reported in the city since sweeping bail reform changes came into effect in early 2020.
Currently, judges are prohibited from setting bail on most misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges – including many hate crimes. For instance, hate crime charges like menacing and aggravated harassment are not bail eligible.
The defendants, in such cases, are automatically released while awaiting trial. However, bail remains an option for judges in cases involving violent felonies.
At present, only two hate crimes – assault as a hate crime and arson as a hate crime – are bail eligible, meaning that defendants can be held until trial or be required to post bail.
The resolution calls on the New York State legislature to pass – and the governor to sign – a law that would give judges the power to detain defendants on any type of hate crime charge before they face trial.
This, the resolution states, would provide judges with the option to “more meaningfully” address hate crimes. Brooklyn Council Member Kalman Yeger co-sponsored the resolution.
“With over 3 million foreign-born residents, New York City is incredibly diverse… there can be no tolerance for hate crimes perpetrated against any New Yorker,” the resolution reads.
According to NYPD data, there were 322 hate crime complaints in the first half of this year compared to 128 during the same period in 2020. The council members said that a large portion of these hate crimes were anti-Semitic or anti-Asian in nature.
“Expanding bail eligibility to all hate crimes underlines the seriousness with which the city takes these types of attacks,” the resolution reads.
The passage of a resolution in the city council– although not legally binding– would send a message to Albany calling for reform.
Holden, whose district includes Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth, has railed against recent bail reform policies which he blames, in part, for a spike in crime in the city.
“Bail reform has been a disaster, but the change called for in this resolution would be a step in the right direction by allowing judges to require bail in those cases,” Holden said in a statement.
“Individuals arrested for hate crimes should not be released without bail.”