Two days before he allegedly drove drunk and caused a fatal traffic crash, Jordan Randolph was released from a Nassau County courtroom even though he indicated he was ready to accept a plea deal to serve a year in jail on a handful of charges, including violation of probation, court records show.
But the paperwork wasn’t lined up for the Jan. 10 hearing, so Nassau County Court Judge William O’Brien declined to accept the proposed deal immediately. Prosecutors didn’t ask the judge to remand — that is, jail — Randolph on a probation violation that was part of the case.
A state official and a former prosecutor said Thursday that jailing was an option, but the office of Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas called the assertion unrealistic.
Randolph allegedly smashed his Cadillac SUV into another vehicle on January 12 on the William Floyd Parkway in Shirley. The other driver, Jonathan Armand Flores-Maldonado, later was pronounced dead at Stony Brook Hospital.
The case has sparked new arguments about New York's overhaul of its criminal justice laws, which went in to effect Jan. 1.
“What should have happened is he was put in jail on Jan. 10 because he was promised [jail] time,” said a criminal justice official with the Cuomo administration who is familiar with the case. “They could have asked for remand right there. The ball got dropped here.”
An attorney in Singas' office said that idea was "clearly unrealistic."
Karl Sleight, a private attorney who once served as head of the state Ethics Commission and as a prosecutor, said in such a situation the district attorney has the option of requesting the defendant be jailed — although he noted the judge “doesn’t have to say yes.”
Nassau officials said the district attorney's office had sought remand for Randolph in May, when he allegedly committed other misdemeanors that violated his probation, but was rebuffed by a judge. Since then, Randolph had made his court appearances, providing no cause to seek jail time, the officials said.
Singas' spokesman also said they were unaware Randolph had been arrested Jan. 1 in Suffolk County for tampering with an ignition device meant to prevent him from starting his car unless sober.
That information would have changed the office’s approach, Singas spokesman Brendan Brosh said.
“Clearly, we would have addressed the second arrest for driving without an interlock with the court if we had been advised,” Brosh said.
In other developments in the Randolph case this week:
- Randolph, a repeat offender with six felony and six misdemeanor convictions, including multiple ones for DWI, was taken into custody late Wednesday and sent to jail Thursday by O’Brien for alleged probation violations.
- The state Office of Court Administration confirmed that a Suffolk County judge misinterpreted the state’s new bail laws when he denied a prosecutor’s request to place Randolph under electronic monitoring — typically, an ankle bracelet — after his arraignment for the traffic fatality.
Such monitoring is an option in cases involving a felony, several state officials have said.
“The judge may have thought that it had to be a felony under the New York State penal law, but the statute simply says ‘a felony,' ” said OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen, referring to acting Suffolk County Court Judge James McDonaugh.
“A felony DWI would be under the vehicle and traffic law, which would make it an offense eligible for monitoring," Chalfen said.
The case highlighted how the criminal justice system is grappling to understand all the terms of New York’s new bail law.
Under the law, bail cannot be imposed for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, such as Randolph’s drunken-driving charge in connection with the fatality.
But the law didn’t impact probation laws and allowed for court-imposed monitoring and detention in some cases.
The transcript of the Jan. 10 proceeding in Nassau indicates Randolph was poised to serve a year in jail for offenses including violating probation from one of his previous DWI convictions.
“This is my deal. Apparently, I thought that was something we worked out,” O'Brien said. “It was my promise to you of one year to cover both this and the violation of probation, ending your probation.”
Randolph said that he wanted to “get it over with, the jail time anyway.”
But O'Brien said there was a problem with the necessary fingerprinting work, and that he wouldn’t accept resolution of the matter at that time.
O'Brien released Randolph and told him to return to court Jan. 22, court transcripts show.
Nassau district attorney officials also noted police picked up Randolph on several charges in March, included driving without the ignition-locking device. They filed a notice of probation violation but he failed to show for an April court date.
In May, they asked for him to be jailed. Though he was initially held, he was released in May on his own recognizance.