Law enforcement unions Tuesday called for the repeal of state bail reform laws, citing the case of a Bellport man with a lengthy criminal record who killed himself after a brief pursuit, leaving police to then find the bodies of two relatives in his home.
Questions remain, however, about how the new bail laws impacted the case and why William Farnum, 43, of Doane Avenue, who was arrested four times between July 14 and Sept. 8 — all while on parole — was not returned to prison after repeated arrests, parole violations and missed court appearances. The underlying charges against him at the time of his death were nonviolent and all but one, grand larceny, were misdemeanors.
Farnum died by suicide after crashing his 2003 Honda Civic into a utility pole on Washington Avenue in East Patchogue on Oct. 7. When officers approached the vehicle, they found Farnum had slit his throat, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Homicide detectives, attempting to notify the next of kin, entered Farnum’s home and found the body of a man and a woman, authorities said. While police have yet to identify the victims, police union officials Tuesday said they were Farnum's father and sister.
Suffolk Police Benevolent Association President Noel DiGerolamo said Farnum should not have been a free man that day and blamed the state's controversial new bail reform laws, which limit the number of crimes for which judges could set bail.
"He should not have been released but he was because of these failed reforms," DiGerolamo said at a news conference Tuesday in Brentwood in which police union leaders, Republican lawmakers and political candidates criticized Long Island's six Democratic state senators for supporting bail reform. "Our system failed him."
But Gary Ginsberg, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, said Farnum's case "had nothing to do with bail reform. It is shameful that the PBA is politicizing a tragedy and using ‘alternative facts’ because reality doesn’t fit their warped narrative."
Nassau PBA President James McDermott said bail reform had taken discretion away from the judges.
"You are tying their hands," he said "They are not allowed to do what they need to do."
Farnum was released last year to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision after serving more than four years in an upstate prison on a second-degree attempted burglary conviction, records show. He was on parole until August 2024, according to records. He had served other stints in state prison after being convicted of robbery, burglary, attempted assault and DWI, records show.
Court records indicate that Farnum has five open cases on a host of new charges, including felony grand larceny, and several misdemeanor counts including resisting arrest, marijuana possession and motor vehicle infractions.
He was initially given desk appearance tickets for each arrest but failed to make three later court appearances, according to law enforcement officials. It is not clear why bench warrants for Farnam's arrest were not issued after he failed to appear.
Records show Farnum was arrested July 14 on a charge of fourth-degree grand larceny. The case was subsequently adjourned three times and he didn't come to court on the case, records show.
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spokesman Thomas Mailey said following the July arrest Farnum was directed by his parole officer to report to his assigned parole office, but that he failed to appear.
"DOCCS efforts to reengage the parolee continued," Mailey said. "Once it was determined he had absconded a warrant was issued and additional efforts to apprehend him ensued. Those efforts to locate Farnum were ongoing at the time of his death."
On Aug. 2, he was arrested again and charged with eight traffic infractions, including a top charge of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. And Farnum was arrested again the following day and charged with another traffic infraction.
He was then arrested Sept. 8 and charged with resisting arrest and possession of marijuana and was scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 30, records show.
At that time, police union leaders said, Farnum was attempting to break into several vehicles near Bellport Middle School when he was confronted by police who used a Taser to subdue him after he indicated that he had a gun. Farnum was unarmed, officials said.