ALBANY — Outraged over the Cuomo administration’s recent stream of parole approvals for convicted cop-killers Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom and murderer-rapist Samuel Ayala, Republican state lawmakers are introducing a new bill giving the Legislature more oversight of the state parole board.
State Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R-Syracuse) and Assemblyman Joseph Giglio (R-Gowanda) are introducing a bill that would strengthen legislative surveillance over the state Parole Board, slamming recent releases of individuals and arguing they do not take into account the feelings of victims.
“The recent decisions by the parole board granting release to violent offenders such as Samuel Ayala and Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom are textbook examples of what’s wrong with this board. If these heinous actions don’t warrant a full sentence, what does?” Barclay seethed.
“We need to continue to fight for the victims of violent crimes and create laws that help protect them, not make it more difficult for them to get on with their lives.”
“New York state’s pro-criminal mentality has reached a boiling point. Simply put, victims are treated as second class while convicted felons are given priority,” he added.
Ayala, 68, was granted parole earlier this month following 43 years behind bars for raping and murdering two women — as their children heard their screams in the room next door.
Bell, now in his early 70s, was convicted of murdering NYPD officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones in 1971, and was sprung in April 2018.
The former Black Revolutionary Army soldier’s accomplice — 68-year-old Anthony Bottom — is set to be paroled as early as this October.
The new legislation would allow the state Senate and Assembly to remove any one of the state’s 19-member parole board commissioners by a majority vote — right now only state law solely grants the governor removal powers.
It would also require a minimum of three members to interview inmates seeking parole prior to a decision, as current state law only requires the sign off of two officials.
Lastly, the bill would require a unanimous vote of the three members ahead of each determination on parole. Currently only a majority consensus is required.
Family members who lost loved ones at the hands of Bell, Bottom and Ayala backed the proposal.
“I’ve been giving victim impact statements since 2002,” recounted the widow of slain NYPD cop Joseph Piagentini, 76-year-old Diane Piagentini.
“It’s just six months between statements and any changes to the parole hearings are in the hands of the inmates — and the burden is on the victims. We are living the horrendous killings of our families every two years. We don’t even know if the commissioners actually read our statements,” she told The Post, adding each time she appealed to the board against the release of Bell and Bottom she relived the nightmarish pain and hurt associated with her husband’s death, over four decades ago.
“It takes me three days to write a statement. My daughters were 3 years old and 15 months when my husband was killed. What the parole board is basically doing now is they are only taking into consideration what the inmate has done in prison, they are not taking into consideration the heinousness of the crime.”
“You as the victim have to be proactive in finding out what’s going on,” she said, explaining she along with family members waited for weeks before they found about Bell’s parole approval — only after calling the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision on her own.
“I’ve felt that throughout all these years, especially in these later years that Cuomo is our governor and you must be proactive now.”
Jason Minter, 50, was only six years old when Samuel Ayala took his mother Bonnie Minter and friend Shelia Watson into a room in Rockland County before raping and killing both women.
He said the last time he saw his mother’s rapist and murderer, Ayala was laughing and running out the door after committing the twin murders.
“My concern is that he will be frustrated and I’ve been the most vocal in keeping him in — he’s used my name in the past. It’s always “Jason Minter and the Watson family,” The last thing I heard was him laughing that he raped and shot my mother and ran out laughing,” he told The Post, adding he plans to install cameras outside his house.
Ayala was authorized for release on Sept. 3, but has remained in custody as DOCCS has yet to approve his housing assignment.
Minter said in the past he has retold his horrific story to the parole board in person, but this year due to COVID-19 restrictions he was forced to provide his impact statement via phone call.
“They wouldn’t do a Zoom meeting — I was on vacation in the mountains and had to drive to get service and then sit on the phone and tell someone about how my mother was brutally raped and murdered — only to have this very board tell the world and the state that this guy now feels remorseful and wants to be released.”
“It’s dehumanizing it makes you feel almost like you’re the perpetrator, you’re the one who did something wrong. It makes you feel like you did something wrong and the state is making the case that this monster should be able to walk the streets with my 11-year-old.”
The early release of Judith Clark in May 2019 similarly sparked outrage after Gov. Andrew Cuomo commuted the former Weather Underground radical and Brink’s robbery getaway driver’s 75-years-to-life sentence to 35-years-to-life in 2016 — marking another case that sparked outrage among victims’ family members.
The infamous 1981 Brink’s robbery resulted in the death of Nyack Officers Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown of the Nyack Police Department and security guard/driver Peter Paige.
Bob Dennison, who served as the Parole Board chairman under former Gov. George Pataki, marked Clark’s release as a turning point.
“That sent a message to the Parole Board. They’re much more liberal in granting release to convicts who have long sentences,” he said during an interview in May.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has also signed off on the release of thousands of inmates within the past couple months, citing concerns over more compromised, or older individuals contracting COVID-19 while in a congregate setting.
The legislation has yet to receive a sponsor in the state Senate, and is subject to a majority vote by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
A DOCCS spokesman told The Post the agency does not comment on pending legislation.
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