Contact: Joshua Fitzpatrick, (518) 455-3751
For Immediate Release:
April 16, 2008

In Observance Of National Crime Victims Week, Tedisco, Assembly Minority Renews Call For Passage Of "Chronic Criminal Act"

Saying that chronic criminals pose a clear and present danger to the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers, Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady-Saratoga) and the Assembly Minority Conference today renewed their push for passage of the "Chronic Criminal Act," Assembly Bill A.5774.

Tedisco and the Assembly Minority members advocated for the measure during a press conference in Albany as part of their continued observance of "National Crime Victims Rights Week." Tedisco once again stood with Steve Downey, a Saratoga resident whose daughter and grandson were murdered in 2006 by Kareem Hayes, a chronic criminal with a long track record of misdemeanor offenses in calling for the legislation's passage.

"My daughter Hillary and my grandson Romello died by the hand of a chronic criminal who made a career out of hurting and taking advantage of innocent victims. His track record of criminal behavior was well established. If the Chronic Criminal Act had already been law, it might have prevented their murders," said Downey.

"There is no question that chronic criminals pose a chronic threat to the safety and security of all New Yorkers. Chronic criminals are repeat offenders who often move on to more dangerous types of crimes, becoming an even greater menace to public safety. The best possible way to stop chronic criminals is by cracking down on this type of systemic lawlessness before it escalates into something more horrific than a petty crime," Tedisco stated.

A.5774 would amend the state's criminal procedure and penal laws to create the crime of aggravated criminal conduct, enabling the courts to impose felony sanctions on chronic misdemeanor offenders, thus enhancing public safety.

The legislation creates the new Class E felony offense of "Aggravated Criminal Conduct" and appropriately punishes those who repeatedly commit misdemeanor offenses. Under the Chronic Criminal Act, an offender who commits their fourth misdemeanor or felony offense, after having been previously convicted of three or more misdemeanors or felonies within the previous 10 years, will be punished as a Class E felon and face up to four years in state prison.

To ensure the proper handling of cases involving repeat misdemeanor offenders, the bill provides that criminal history records, when certified by the Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, are admissible in felony hearings and grand jury proceedings.

Tedisco, Downey and the Assembly Minority Conference called on the Assembly Majority to enact A.5774 before the conclusion of the legislative session. The measure was originally introduced in February of 2006 as Assembly Bill A.9876.

In May of the previous legislative session, the State Senate passed its own version of the legislation - the "Career Criminal" bill, S.1600 - introduced by Senator Frank Padavan (R-Queens). Padavan's legislation recently passed the Senate by a vote of 53 to 7.

Downey also noted that he sent a letter to then Governor Spitzer and the legislative leaders last December, asking that they make passage of the legislation one of their top public safety priorities for the 2008 session. A frustrated Downey explained that the only reply he received was from Tedisco's office.

"Before this session began, I sent a letter to Governor Spitzer, Leader Tedisco, Senate Majority Leader Bruno, Leader Smith and Speaker Silver and Assembly Majority Leader Canestrari, asking that in Hillary and Romello's memory, partisan politics be set aside so we could stop chronic criminals like the one who preyed on my family. The only leader who sent a response was Assemblyman Tedisco, who again pledged to enact the Chronic Criminal Act," Downey stated.

A copy of Downey's 2007 letter to former Governor Spitzer and the legislative leaders is included with this news release.

"I'm not a political person. I'm a regular guy who never had any intention of the pain my family and I endured turning into some kind of political football. But that's what has happened in this case. The Chronic Criminal Act and similar types of legislation seem to have been stalled or blocked from passing the Assembly. My family and I deserve an explanation as to why it's somehow acceptable this measure has been pending before the Assembly for over two years and counting," Downey said.

"I think it's downright insulting that, even after my daughter's and grandson's murders the Assembly can't find the courage to do the right thing and toughen penalties on those with a history of criminal conduct. My experience in dealing with the Assembly on this issue has been beyond frustrating. I pray that no other parent and grandparent has to go through what I did, losing members of their family at the hands of a career criminal because politics stopped a law from getting on the books," Downey said.

"The way Steve Downey has been mistreated, the way his pleas have fallen on deaf ears, is a shame on this house. Assembly Minority members are ready and willing to pass the Chronic Criminal Act today. We have 42 votes in favor of this measure. The question is, are there 34 members of the Majority with the courage to defy their Speaker and vote with us? In memory of Hillary, Romello and crime victims all across our state, we have an obligation to see the Chronic Criminal Act enacted into law. I'm asking for 34 members of the Majority Conference to do the right thing and vote with us in favor of stopping chronic criminals. Going forward, our Conference will publicly identify how all 150 members voted on this issue to ensure that all New Yorkers know where their representative stands on this and other critical public safety issues," Tedisco concluded.

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