A Central New York case of rape and murder is prompting a federal government review of how suspects are monitored before their trials. Local victims’ advocates have fought for seven years to improve pre-trial release after the horrific crime.
Many in Central New York remember the case of David Renz. He raped a 10-year-old and murdered a woman, all while he was supposed to be at home with an ankle monitor on, which he disabled. Bill Cregg was there to comfort Lori Bresnahan as she died. He’s fought to improve home monitoring ever since the 2013 crime.
“We continue to see murders, domestic violence and sexual assaults on our children from individuals wearing electronic monitors on pretrial release today,” Cregg said.
His efforts and pressure from Congressman John Katko (R-Camillus) have finally caused the Government Accountability Office to review failures of pre-trial release. In the Renz case it was reported that probation ignored 46 alarms that he was tampering with his monitor. John Duncan was a U.S. attorney in Syracuse at the time and says the system has to be better.
“We are in times now where there are current efforts to reduce the number of people held in jail pretrial and you can look at New York bail reform laws as a prime example of that,” he said. “But it’s very important that if people are released pretrial that the public feels secure. If someone is let out that they’re not going to be a risk."
Katko sponsored a bill in Congress calling for the GAO review to examine pre-trial services, the response to tampering warnings of electronic devices, and the criminal history of those on pre-trial release.
“We can’t move forward until we get a full view of the depth of the problem. I think we can all acknowelege that there is a problem and I don’t want judges to get a false sense of confidence that a system works when it’s not,” Katko said. “Not only are we going to find the bad things, we’re going to find the good things. We’re going to have an appropriate discussion once we educate the public on what we need to do.”
The review comes at a time when more suspects of crimes are not being held in custody, due to bail reform and other factors. Katko adds the GAO review will help improve his legislation on pre-trial release and probation.
Katko bill would direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to:
- Provide data on the number and types of federal crimes that individuals on pre-trial release have been charged with over the past 5 years
- Examine policies that guide federal Probation and Pretrial Services officers in their response when an electronic monitoring device indicates either tampering or noncompliance with pretrial release requirement
- Review actions being taken to ensure Probation and Pretrial Services officers are adhering to the monitoring and supervision policies in place
- Examine staffing and resource challenges Probation and Pretrial Services face and extent of their coordination with state agencies to help administer probation and pretrial services