Opportunity Knocks for New York’s GOP
Frank Abrokwa and Assamad Nash both stand accused of crimes they were unlikely to have been free to commit before the state’s misguided attempt to abolish cash bail. New York Republicans, take note.
If the so-called “Squeegee Men” helped pave the way for Mayor Giuliani’s cleanup of New York City, will Frank Abrokwa and Assamad Nash finally cause Albany Democrats to fix New York’s bail reform law? Messrs. Abrokwa and Nash both stand accused of crimes they were unlikely to have been free to commit before the state’s misguided attempt to abolish cash bail. New York Republicans, take note.
In both cases the victims of New York’s lax bail law were women. Mr. Abrokwa, who had a colorful appearance in court Tuesday, is accused by prosecutors of having on February 21 smeared his own feces on the face of a woman who was waiting for a subway train in the Bronx. Despite a long rap sheet, Mr. Nash was on the streets when on February 13 police say he stalked and murdered Christina Yuna Lee in Chinatown.
It is a testament to the folly of the state’s current law that Mr. Abrokwa, who was arrested Monday, wasn’t even held on bail after a profanity-laced criminal court appearance Tuesday at the Bronx. As the Daily News reports, he yelled “I’m fucking tired of it” as he entered the courtroom. He used a coarse word to refer to his victim. Yet the judge in the Bronx found that the court “didn’t have a legally sufficient reason to order him held.”
In the event, a smiling Mr. Abrokwa was taken into custody after the hearing by detectives investigating him for another crime. So he was moved to Brooklyn, but not before prosecutors in the Bronx tried to claim Mr. Abrokwa’s subway assault was part of a pattern of attacks. The judge declined, the News reports, because “she didn’t have video or victim depositions to review in his other recent arrests.”
The inability of judges to hold most accused criminals on bail is precisely the problem created by the Democrats’ law. Mr. Abrokwa has been accused of assaulting on January 7 a 30-year-old in the subway at Harlem. On February 5, he allegedly punched a 53-year-old man at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. He later stole from a Bronx hardware store and threatened an employee with a screwdriver, police say.
In each case, the charges were not enough to warrant holding Mr. Abrokwa, and he was released without bail to continue his spree. If, say, on January 7, a judge had been able to hold him on bail, he would likely still be there awaiting trial. Instead, it might be that a sense of invulnerability to prosecution finally led him to his subway assault with feces, which generated sufficient public outrage and at last compelled authorities to act.
While Mr. Abrokwa’s string of alleged crimes is emblematic of rising disorder in the city, Mr. Nash’s offense is far more serious. He, too, was a beneficiary of the Democrats’ no-bail policy — and, one can speculate, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s soft-on-crime policies. The NYPD has observed that Mr. Nash had been arrested eight times between May 2021 and February 2022, when he allegedly stabbed Lee to death.
Before bail reform, any of those arrests might have kept Mr. Nash in jail while his case worked its way through the courts. Most recently, in January, he was arrested for damaging MetroCard machines in the subway, authorities say, and for trying to escape from a police van. Yet on January 7, a judge let him walk. Press reports say Mr. Nash could have been held on the charge of escape, but prosecutors didn’t ask for it.
No doubt there were abuses before bail reform. Its advocates point to the case of a Bronx teenager, Kalief Browder, who was accused of stealing a backpack and got stuck in jail for three years because his parents couldn’t afford the $3,000 bail. The charges were dropped, yet Browder later killed himself. Such tragedies cry for the law to be revised to permit judges to weigh the dangerousness of the accused.
Mayor Adams has sought to revise the bail law. He hit a wall with Albany Democrats, including a weak governor, Kathy Hochul. The state senate’s leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, also shrinks from reform, saying it would “criminalize poverty.” The state’s GOP chairman says Mr. Adams “folded on bail reform like a cheap suit.” If Messrs. Nash and Abrokwa don’t compel Democrats to act, it’s an opportunity for Republicans.