Prosecutors in New York are objecting to the decision by a Manhattan judge to release an inmate charged with murder because of concerns he will contract coronavirus.
Pedro Vinent-Barcia was ordered freed from Rikers Island, along with 15 other inmates, after the Legal Aid Society petitioned for their release amid a coronavirus outbreak currently in the city jails.
State Supreme Court Justice Mark Dwyer agreed with Legal Aid lawyer Corey Stoughton that the 63-year-old was at risk for the COVID-19 illness because of his age and medical history, including cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease and type II diabetes, the New York Post reported.
“As a result of his medical conditions and age, Mr. Vinent-Barcia is at high risk for severe illness or death if [he] contract[s] COVID-19,” Dwyer wrote in the ruling that followed the lawsuit filed earlier this week by the Legal Aid Society on behalf of 32 defendants.
“This ruling is a substantial step forward towards getting our clients off Rikers Island out of harm’s way, and back home with their families,” Stoughton said of the move arguing that the confinement of inmates with medical or age issues during the pandemic violates their constitutional rights.
But prosecutors countered that Vinent-Barcia’s alleged crime of stabbing his girlfriend to death and his criminal record should prevent him from being released. Vinent-Barcia allegedly attacked and killed Bernice Rosado in 2018 after terrorizing her for months, as Assistant DA Patricia Bailey noted.
“Is she dead? I hope so,” he allegedly said after police apprehended him following the brutal incident at a cellphone repair shop in Harlem which was captured on surveillance video.
The judge was even informed by the prosecutor of a prior arrest in 1993 in Florida when Vinent-Barcia reportedly stabbed another girlfriend and bit off a piece of her ear.
But Dwyer apparently was more compelled by the worry of the inmate getting sick, siding with Stoughton who vowed “We will not quit until all of our clients are safely released from custody.”
There was a significant increase in the number of inmates in New York City jails who have tested positive for coronavirus, with the Department of Corrections indicating 103 infected inmates as of Friday, up from 75 just two days prior.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office agreed this week that a total of 244 inmates would be released.
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis,” he told his staff in a memo, according to the New York Post. “I believe we should use our discretion to recommend release of certain individuals from Rikers who do not present a clear threat to public safety.”
“Extraordinary times call for us all to be flexible, but still to be guided by fundamental principles of safety and justice,” he added.
“COVID-19 is spreading rapidly at Rikers Island and other local jails, endangering our clients, correction staff and all of New York City,” Tina Luongo of The Legal Aid Society said in a news release earlier this week. “Based on this analysis, New York City jails have become the epicenter of COVID-19.”
The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision began to process the release of inmates following an order by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that an estimated 1,100 low-level offenders from jails across the state should be freed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
“Wherever we can get people out of jails, out of prisons, now, we are,” Cuomo told MSNBC on Friday.
Social media users expressed their outrage at the plan to free inmates, especially those charged with a brutal murder.
Three HUNDRED inmates from New York City’s notorious Rikers Island with less than a year left of their sentence will be released to stop coronavirus spread as prisons continue to free prisoners to control pandemic. They all promise to go home, and self quarantine!
— dennis zellaha (@dzellaha) March 26, 2020
I thought it was only going to be non violent offenders?
— melissa1994 (@mel19944) March 28, 2020
This is making me more distraught than I already am. Law abiding citizens forced into house arrest while murders are given their freedom. #coronavirus
— Annieone3 (@annieone3) March 27, 2020
If only they worried about the victim’s death as much as the murderer getting flu.
— JeaniegirlDC (@jeaniegirldc) March 28, 2020
Explain how the criminals are less likely to obtain corona virus outside of jail/prison than inside. While all law abiders are supposed to be quarantined, liberals un-quarantine criminals. Follow their perverted, il-advisesd logic.
— Don Johnson (@DonDon44jo) March 28, 2020
NYC judge frees alleged murderer amid coronavirus spread
Rikers prison has many CV-19 positive prisoners and now they are releasing even violent prisoners who may harbor virus into a city already overwhelmed. Can’t fix stupid https://t.co/TtunzgiWPh
— husky2 (@husky218) March 28, 2020
Diseases swirl through every jail every day. Maybe the answer is not committing crimes that put you there in the first place. Not sure why this virus warrants setting killers free.
— Cornpopinfluenza (@LDreeniatnuom) March 28, 2020
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