DA Flynn concerned about pending parole reform legislation

Today, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn voiced his concerns about proposed criminal justice reform legislation that would drastically change parole requirements and allow eligible incarcerated individuals to be released early from prisons in New York State.

District Attorney John Flynn is urging state representatives to vote against the Elder Parole Act (S.15A/A.3475). If passed, the bill would allow any incarcerated individual age 55 or older who has served 15 or more consecutive years in prison to be automatically considered for parole regardless of the type of crime committed or length of sentence imposed. Under the new legislation, these convicted felons would be automatically entitled to a parole hearing whether or not they have served the minimum sentence imposed by the judge. Those eligible would be released if the New York State Board of Parole determines that there is a reasonable probability that the offender will live and remain at liberty without violating the law and that release is not incompatible with the welfare of society. If release is denied, the Board must reconsider parole eligibility within two years.

DA Flynn is also asking lawmakers to vote against the Fair and Timely Parole Act (S.1415/A.4231). The legislation would amend the executive law related to the New York State Board of Parole findings for discretionary release of incarcerated individuals on parole. If passed, the bill requires the Board to grant parole to any incarcerated person “unless the parole case record demonstrates there is a current and unreasonable risk the person will violate the law if released and such risk cannot be mitigated by parole supervision.” The Parole Board must first consider the individual’s institutional record, performance in a temporary release program and post-release plans before reviewing any statements by the crime victim or victim’s representative, length of sentence, seriousness of the offense, and prior criminal history. The legislation requires the Board to prioritize the prisoner’s rehabilitation when considering parole eligibility. If the Fair and Timely Parole Act is passed, the seriousness of the crime and its impact on the victim will be depreciated when the incarcerated individual is being considered for early release under parole.

“It is my job, as District Attorney, to keep the residents of Erie County safe while providing justice to those who have been the victim of a crime. I am strongly against these two pieces of legislation that threaten public safety in New York by allowing incarcerated individuals to be released early from prison. While I support prisoner rehabilitation, efforts to reduce recidivism and certain criminal justice reforms, we cannot allow convicted felons to be given a break due solely to their age or good behavior. Many of these criminals who would be eligible for early release under this proposed legislation are serving lengthy sentences after being convicted of murder, rape, and other violent crimes. These offenders must be held accountable for their actions by serving their time in prison. The nature of the offense and the life-long impact these crimes have on victims and their families must be prioritized when considering parole eligibility. Each of these bills are bad enough on their own, but together they are disastrous,” said Erie County DA John Flynn.

Altemio Sanchez, also known as the “Bike Path Rapist,” pleaded guilty to three counts of Murder in the Second Degree for raping and killing three women. While he was unable to be prosecuted for these crimes due to the statute of limitations, the defendant is believed to have attacked and raped several other victims in Western New York between 1975 and 2006. Sanchez was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison in August 2007. If the Elder Parole Act is passed, Sanchez, who is currently age 63, would be eligible for parole next year.

Other well-known incarcerated individuals who committed murders and violent crimes in New York and would be eligible for parole under these proposed pieces of legislation include:


David Berkowitz

Date of Birth: June 1, 1953 (age 67)

Entered Prison: November 13, 1978

Sentence: 25 years to life in prison

Earliest Release Date: May 2018

Highest Charge: Murder in the Second Degree

Crime: Serial killer known as the “Son of Sam,” Berkowitz was convicted of murdering six people and wounding seven others in a spree of shootings that occurred in 1976 and 1977. The crimes caused panic in New York City.

William Blake

Date of Birth: Oct. 10, 1963 (age 57)

Entered Prison: July 10, 1987

Sentence: 77 years to life in prison

Earliest Release Date: June 6, 2060

Highest Charge: Murder in the First Degree

Crime: Blake fatally shot Onondaga County Sheriff’s Deputy David Clark and seriously wounded Deputy Bernard Meleski in an escape attempt from DeWitt Town Court in 1987.

James Cahill

Date of Birth: July 28, 1960 (age 60)

Entered prison: October 7, 1999

Sentence: 25 years to life plus 12 1/2 to 25 years in prison

Earliest release date: April 20, 2036

Highest Charge: Murder in the Second Degree

Crime: Cahill dressed as a janitor to enter into his wife’s room at a hospital, where she was recovering after the defendant beat her with a baseball bat. Cahill murdered his wife by poisoning her with cyanide.

Mark David Chapman

Date of Birth: May 10, 1955 (age 66)

Entered Prison: August 25, 1981

Sentence: 20 years to life in prison

Earliest Release Date: August 2016

Highest Charge: Murder in the Second Degree

Crime: Chapman was convicted of killing John Lennon outside The Dakota apartment building in Manhattan in 1980. His widow, Yoko Ono, has written to the parole board to keep Chapman in prison.


Colin Ferguson

Date of Birth: Jan. 14, 1958 (age 63)

Entered Prison: March 23, 1995

Sentence: 315 years to life in prison

Earliest Release Date: Aug. 26, 2309

Highest Charge: Murder in the Second Degree

Crime: Ferguson murdered six people and wounded 19 others in a shooting rampage on the Long Island Railroad in December 1993.

Joel Rifkin

Date of birth: Jan. 20, 1959 (age 62)

Entered prison: September 20, 1995

Sentence: 203 years to life in prison

Earliest release date: Feb. 26, 2197

Highest Charge: Murder in the Second Degree

Crime: Serial killer who was sentenced in 1994 for the murders of nine women. He is suspected of killing 17 women between 1989 and 1993 in New York City and Long Island.

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