In a move derided by his opponents as a political ploy, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week doled out conditional pardons to more than 24,000 parolees. The executive order allows the released criminals to vote in the election in which Cuomo, mentioned as a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, will seek his third term as governor.
Among the thousands pardoned is one case that of Herman Bell, 70, who was convicted in the 1971 murders of two New York City police officers, including one who was shot 22 times, Fox News reported.
“How could he do something like that? This is a convicted felon. He killed police officers in New York,” Dianne Piagentini, widow of one of the murdered officers, said Friday on “Fox & Friends.”
“He’s doing it for votes,” Piagentini said. “He did it right before the Democratic convention.”
Last week, Cuomo was overwhelmingly nominated by Democrats to seek his third term. He is opposed within the Democratic Party by populist and former actress Cynthia Nixon.
Bell’s case was already a major issue with New York’s police, who were angered at his release from prison in April.
“The message to law enforcement officers in New York, San Francisco, and throughout our country is painfully clear: Your sacrifices can and will be forgotten,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill wrote when Bell was paroled, according to the Daily News. “Herman Bell should remain in prison for the rest of his life. His mind has not changed, his heart has not opened, and his debt has not nearly been repaid.”
Cuomo has said that the parole board’s action is beyond his control, but that giving parolees the right to vote is essential.
“The right to vote is fundamental and it is unconscionable to deny that basic right of citizenship to New Yorkers who have paid their debt to society,” Cuomo said.
“Restoring a voice to men and women reentering their communities will strengthen our democracy, as well as the reentry process, which in-turn will help reduce recidivism,” he added.
Cuomo’s action drew support from New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman.
“These pardons will encourage civic participation, make our political process more inclusive, and affirm the fundamental rights of all New Yorkers. Voting is the right we exercise to protect all others, and this progressive action will strengthen New York’s democracy. The work now falls to communities across the state to ensure parolees are registered, engaged and heard,” she said.
However, Marcus Molinaro, a Republican candidate for governor, attacked Cuomo for putting politics above the police, according to the New York Post.
“What is Andrew Cuomo possibly thinking? Herman Bell murdered two New York City Police Officers in cold blood, never once showing remorse, and Cuomo gives him early release and voting rights?” Molinaro said.
“Even (New York City Mayor) Bill de Blasio argued against Bell’s release. I weep for the families of Police Officers (Waverly) Jones and (Joseph) Piagentini, and urge the governor to show them some respect. Has the Governor had the decency to even speak to them? Herman Bell belongs in a maximum security prison cell for life, not in a voting booth.”
“Desperate to ward off a challenge from Cynthia Nixon, Andrew Cuomo’s unilateral action is an insult to the legislature, the courts, crime victims and the voters of the State of New York,” Molinaro concluded.
Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan of Smithtown also said Cuomo was playing politics, not crafting sound policy.
“Doing so on the eve of the state Democratic Convention is no coincidence — it is just the latest in a series of politically motivated decisions designed to attract more votes from the far-left fringes of his party,” Flanagan said.
“The Governor’s Executive Order circumvented the legislative process and is offensive to the thousands of people who have been victimized by these hardened criminals … the Governor has put politics ahead of the public interest and he must be stopped.”
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