Assemblyman Mike Lawler is unhappy with New York State’s Parole Board. During his time in office Lawler has criticized the state’s perceived leniency, as the board granted early releases to some of Rockland’s most notorious criminals including Robert McCain and Richard LaBarbera, the men responsible for the murder of Paula Bohovesky, and David Gilbert, a former member of the Weather Underground, the domestic terror cell that carried out the 1981 Brinks Robbery. In response to what he has labeled “a disgusting betrayal” by state authorities, Lawler, with the support of local law enforcement, is seeking to pass a series of parole bills that would make it more difficult for the state to release incarcerated criminals.
“I’m calling these bills what they are, the common sense parole package ” said the Assemblyman, who stated that his proposed reforms would “restore balance, sanity and integrity” to the New York State parole board.
The announcement was hardly a surprise. Lawler was at the forefront of public efforts to deny both McCain and Gilbert’s release, and in the wake of Gilbert’s parole vowed to champion legislation to curb the boards authority. His new series of bills would do just that; in addition to granting the governor the right to override any decision made by the parole board, Lawler’s bills would also eliminate parole for persons convicted of the murder of a law enforcement officer of first responder, and establish a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of the first degree murder of a law enforcement officer or first responder. His ambitious proposals would also strip the Governor of the right to pardon anyone sentenced to life without parole.
“What we’ve seen in recent years from this parole board is a radical ideology,” accused Lawler “their actions allow criminals to remain free and victims to be re-hurt because of the directions and polices of the state parole board”
Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco, who stood beside Lawler as he announced his plan, was all in favor of the new bills. “ I stand here today in support of a change to our current system” said Falco, “I do believe in recidivism, but not for the heinous crimes of murder and rape. I stand here today in support of changes to this legislation.”
Lawler has previously supported other bills that would prevent convicted criminals from attaining early release. In April, he and Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick championed an amendment to an existing law which banned parole for an offender who commits murder during a sexual assault. The original legislation enforces that ban if the victim was under the age of 14, however Lawler and Reichlin-Melnick are pushing to for a new standard that would deny parole to anyone who assaults and murders a victim 18 years old or younger.