Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini at a news conference...

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini at a news conference in Riverhead. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Daily Point

Sini’s take on bail reform

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini met with the Newsday editorial board Wednesday afternoon and gave his take on new bail and discovery laws roiling Albany.

Raising questions about the elimination of cash bail for most offenses, Sini said that “we’re concerned about people who are charged with serious crimes being released pre-trial with no accountability.”

He suggested giving judges an “evidence-based tool” to determine factors like a defendant’s risk of reoffending, returning to court, or presenting a danger to the community. 

On discovery, the process by which the prosecution turns over its evidence to the accused and the accused’s attorney, Sini said, “We’ve swung the pendulum way too far.” 

He said the new requirement that evidence be shared within 15 days is too strict and can put witnesses or victims in danger. 

Possible tweaks, he said, include expanding that time frame, only requiring disclosure of information about witnesses who would testify, or creating a two-tiered system for the process: “You can classify discovery as ‘peripheral’ or ‘core’ and have only the core discovery due within a certain time period.”

Sini’s comments come at a time of heightened criticism of the new laws, which went into effect at the beginning of the year. Republicans are making the new laws a 2020 campaign issue and Democrats are getting pressure from law enforcement officials. LI’s State Senate delegation and the chamber’s leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, have pushed for changes. The Assembly and activist supporters of the laws largely haven’t budged, saying the laws need more time to work themselves out. They are fearful that any changes could reinforce old racial disparities. 

Sini says the new laws haven’t yet resulted in specific headline-grabbing problems in Suffolk County. But his staff is being “aggressive” in seeking protective orders to withhold discovery material when they see an issue. And Sini says he has been in Albany trying to work with lawmakers “to come up with a better bill,” one that maintains many of the “important” reforms, while adding protections that prosecutors think necessary. 

“I have a seat at the table,” Sini told the board.

See a clip of the discussion here

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

A lot of baggage

Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson

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Final Point

Locking horns

In a miniature echo of the outsider vs. party-establishment disputes taking place on the Democratic national stage, the Nassau County Democratic Committee has formally endorsed Tom Suozzi for a third term in the House of Representatives. 

That left non-establishment candidates on the outside, like challenger-from-the-left Melanie D’Arrigo. She said that instead of screening for the nomination, she canvassed voters because “the party was going to endorse the incumbent.” 

State and county party chair Jay Jacobs said there was “no outreach to the Committee by her or anyone on her behalf.”  

“Had she requested,” he wrote in an email, “I would have certainly organized a screening for her.” D’Arrigo said Jacobs knows she’s running.

There’s nearly as much mutual distrust and recrimination between the two camps as you’d see if you search “Tom Perez” or “Bernie Bro” on Twitter.

There’s also a strategic disparity in CD3. D’Arrigo is running in support of left-leaning favorites like a Green New Deal. While Suozzi supports that climate measure, he has positioned himself as a moderate. He just sent a mailing to his district promoting  legislation Speaker Nancy Pelosi let him carry that seeks to restore state and local tax deductions. The flyer features a picture of him with bill co-sponsor Republican Peter King. 

Suozzi portrays this as a crucial issue for Long Island and for pragmatic bipartisanship, which has worked in the district in the past.

“I don’t agree with Peter King on many issues, but he helped me get Republican votes to pass my bill,” he said. “Senator [Chuck] Schumer will need Republican votes if it is ever to pass the Senate.”

D’Arrigo says she has issues with the bill but supports reinstating SALT. Nevertheless, she’s critical of Suozzi “highlighting working with Peter King,” whose positions on issues like immigration are anathema to the progressive left. 

Two lanes for the primary, even in Nassau County. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano