Accused Drunk Driver in Fatal Crash Did Not Need to be Released
Jordan Randolph, 40, of Bellport, has been arrested and is being held without bail after a fatal crash on the William Floyd Parkway in Brookhaven on Saturday, Jan.17. This detention is not on the DWI charges which followed the accident resulting in the death of Jonathan Flores- Maldonado, 27, of Hampton Bays. Instead it is for violation of probation with regard to an earlier 2017 drunken driving conviction of Randolph.
After his Saturday DWI arrest, Randolph was released from custody based on an apparent misinterpretation of New York's new bail reform measure. At arraignment, the Suffolk County district attorney's office did not seek bail, interpreting electric monitoring as the only allowed restraint on liberty under the law. Acting County Court Judge James McDonaugh denied the monitoring request.
The release of Randolph prompted outrage on social media and demonstrated how the state January 1stinitiated bail reform undermines the safety of New Yorkers from dangerous offenders It was also, according to experts, incorrect.
Under the law, bail cannot be imposed on most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.
Prior to Saturday, Randolph, had been convicted of three previous DWIs, along with many misdemeanors for unrelated offenses. Most recently, on January 1, Randolph had been arrested and charged with interfering with an ignition interlock device meant to keep drunken drivers from starting their vehicle.
Vincent Bonventre, an Albany Law School professor who has studied state courts for years, stated in a report in Newsday, "If you violated probation, that immediately triggers the powers of the judge to put you in jail. I don't see how they can say you just can't terminate the condition of probation."
“It would have been a simple matter for the Suffolk DA to obtain a violation of probation arrest warrant from Nassau; on that basis (with an emailed or faxed warrant), the defendant could have been held in custody” at his January 13th court appearance, a state official familiar with the case said in an email.
However, Howard Master, special counsel to Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini, said his office could not have sought to hold Randolph based on Nassau charges. "Under the new bail law, the fact that the defendant was on Nassau County probation at the time of these offenses did not authorize a Suffolk County Court to impose bail or to hold the defendant on either date," Master asserted.
Of course, had Randolph been held upon his New Year’s Day violation of probation, the crash that resulted in the death of Flores-Maldonado would have been avoided.
Although there was no warrant for Randolph based on a violation of probation when the accident occurred, one was issued on Wednesday by Nassau County Judge William O'Brien. “It is now my concern that in regard to the violation of probation, the defendant is no longer supervisable in the community and that I should, therefore, issue an order of commitment,” Judge O’Brien said.
Randolph was taken into custody on that warrant and denied bail on Thursday.