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Look closely at bail issue

The Gloversville mayor and police chief got everyone’s attention recently when they said City Court is not being tough enough on crime.

Not surprisingly, that claim was disputed by some people and supported by others.

For the sake of Gloversville’s residents, we hope city officials are able to quickly reach some sort of understanding; the arguments – if they go on for a long time – would be unproductive for Gloversville.

Last week, Mayor Dayton King and Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said they feel too many suspects in the city are being released, or their bail isn’t being set high enough to keep them in jail.

They specifically criticized City Court Judge Traci DiMezza’s handling of a criminal case involving defendant Jeffrey Wasula.

In a news release, police said an investigation Nov. 5 revealed Wasula had allegedly engaged in a physical altercation with a man and punched him in the face, and then displayed a knife in a threatening manner, pointing it at the victim’s chest.

Police said Wasula was charged and arraigned Nov. 5 in City Court, and DiMezza originally set bail at $10,000 cash.

Wasula told the judge he was out on bail from previous charges, and he had $400 in his pocket and could post that as bail.

Despite the other charges against Wasula and the fact he had failed to appear for a court date, police said, DiMezza reduced Wasula’s bail to $400.

Police said when Wasula realized he only had $325 and requested bail be reduced to that amount, DiMezza approved it.

While DiMezza said she could not talk about the details of the case, she did say the police department’s press release about the incident was inaccurate.

For his part, King said he can’t “do anything” about DiMezza because she has a 10-year term. DiMezza was elected by city voters in November 2012.

However, King said he may replace Assistant City Court Judge Joan Antonik, whose term expires at the end of the year.

While that may make some people feel better in the short term, in the long run, it’s not a solution. There’s no reason to believe a new judge would always make decisions that city officials approve of.

In the interest of the safety of police officers and the public, we’d like to see the city judges set strict bail amounts. However, while we want the judges to be tough, but fair, we also don’t want to see them become scapegoats for the city’s problems.

Ultimately – barring extraordinary circumstances – criminals are responsible for their crimes. Whatever bail is set for a suspect, it should not deflect responsibility from the person who is committing the crime.

The judges, mayor and police chief should resolve this issue and reach some sort of understanding soon.

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