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Simmons presses Cuomo again on grand juries, police-civilian clashes

Russell Simmons at the 46th NAACP Image Awards

Russell Simmons at the 46th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, Calif., on Feb. 6, 2015. Credit: AP / Chris Pizzello

ALBANY - Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons says he is “beyond belief” that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hasn’t tackled criminal justice since the death of Eric Garner last year.

“I spoke to you on the phone and you promised me that you would fix the grand jury system at the top of this year's legislative session, and that did not happen,” Simmons wrote in a Huffington Post essay published late Thursday, just days after a police shooting in South Carolina put fatal police-civilian clashes back in the national spotlight.

Last year, Staten Island jury chose not to indict a police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner. Cuomo met with Simmons, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and other black and Hispanic leaders in December to discuss potential changes to the grand jury system.

Simmons, in his column, acknowledged that Cuomo made a series of proposals in January but couldn’t get them included in the state budget passed a week ago. Simmons said Cuomo, a Democrat, shouldn’t wait for the politically split State Legislature.

“Mr. Governor, you have to make a move … And that is to tap into your political courage and sign an executive order automatically appointing a special prosecutor in any cases involving the death or serious bodily injury of an unarmed civilian by a police officer,” Simmons wrote. “There is much you can do and need to do besides this, but this should have been done by now.”

The Republican-led Senate, especially Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), has sounded skeptical about changing the grand jury process.

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