Daily News: Advocates Urge City’s District Attorneys to Reject Political Gifts From Jail Bond Industry

Legal Aid joined other defender organizations and criminal justice reform advocates on a joint letter to local District Attorneys urging them to refuse political contributions from the bail bond industry.

New York Daily News
Advocates Urge City’s District Attorneys to Reject Political Gifts From Jail Bond Industry
By Erin Durkin
August 8, 2017

Advocates are pushing the city’s district attorneys to swear off political contributions from the bail bond industry.

In a letter to all five district attorneys, legal aid and criminal justice reform groups said they should refuse or return any gifts from the industry, which they charged was using its cash to sway pols to oppose bail reform.

At least one of the prosecutors, acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, who is running for his own term, has received $7,750 from bail companies, records show.

“This industry...should not be permitted to buy influence or curry favor among elected officials with funds collected off the suffering of people in our communities,” the advocates wrote in the letter, signed by VOCAL-NY, JustLeadershipUSA, the Legal Aid Society and others. “The industry has resisted common-sense and effective reforms.”

The groups are targeting DAs because they’re in charge of asking for bail for defendants, which they said creates a conflict.

“There is, at the very least, a perceived conflict of interest for elected officials with the power to set bail-related policies to receive contributions from an industry that relies on arrests, prosecutions and the setting of financial bail conditions,” the letter says.

Gonzalez, who took over the DA’s office after the death of Ken Thompson and is vying against a field of challengers for a full term, got $7,500 since December from Empire Bail Bonds, including a $4,500 in-kind contribution in which they paid for catering for an unspecified event. He got another $250 from I.C. Bail Incorporated.

His campaign spokeswoman Lupe Todd-Medina said he has returned the contributions.

"Our campaign’s progressive supporters in the criminal justice reform community understand that Eric Gonzalez is a champion for bail reform and other significant reforms of the criminal justice system. The campaign returned contributions to the bail industry in order to preserve Eric’s leadership and independence on these issues,” she said.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance says he doesn’t take donations from bail bond firms. “The campaign does not and will not accept contributions from the bail bond industry,” said campaign spokeswoman Linara Davidson.

Queens DA Richard Brown, Bronx DA Darcel Clark, and Staten Island DA Michael McMahon did not respond to requests for comment.

This article originally appeared on NY Daily News.