Man seeks bail in light of ruling

It didn’t take long for the other shoe to drop after county judge Bryan Rounds was overturned by an acting Supreme Court judge in Albany for sending accused Trooper Christopher Baldner back to county jail.  There is another murder case before the judge and the accused’s lawyer, acting on that Albany decision, wants his client out on bail, too. 

Clayton Shafer of Shokan has been indicted on two counts of attempted murder after shooting at a Deputy Sheriff who came to his home in February to serve a summons on a welfare matter.  Shafer’s attorney, Joe O’Connor of Kingston, pleaded before Rounds this week that his client should be allowed bail just as the trooper.  Rounds reserved decision.

“It’s not the same thing,” O’Connor argued before Rounds. Baldner is accused of killing an 11-year-old girl last December in a high-speed chase on the Thruway last December. His client didn’t hurt anybody, he said. Only by the grace of God.

Interest in these cases has been heightened by three sensational murder trials in Wisconsin and Georgia.                   

Judges hate to have their decisions overturned by higher courts and in fact it seldom happens.  But in Baldner’s case, Rounds seems to have nobody to blame but himself. While Rounds painted himself into a corner, O’Connor, one of Kingston’s leading defense lawyers, wasted no time in attempting to take advantage.

Lawyers and judges worship at the feet of precedent, so Rounds must have felt on solid ground in citing (his) precedent in denying bail to any of the indicted murderers who had appeared before him in the Baldner case. The Supreme Court judge ruled that all cases should be based on their merits. Likewise, Rounds had rejected Baldner bail based on the seriousness of the trooper’s indictment. The Albany judge rejected that as well, saying that under the Bail Reform Act of 2019, seriousness of a crime is not a factor in bail decisions. The only factor is whether that person could be considered a flight risk. Bail is not meant to punish.

So, here’s the box.  If Rounds cites a precedent (his precedent) and sends Shafer back to jail, O’Connor will be speeding up to Albany to file a petition for his client’s bail.  If she sets him free, Rounds will have been overturned twice in a month on major cases. Not good for a jurist in mid-career who many predict could be sitting on the state Supreme Court in a few years.


Item: Antonio Delgado advises the president to tap the federal strategic oil reserve

Apparently, our two-term Democratic congressman must have gotten the memo from House leadership. Shortly after Antonio’s press release the president did in fact authorize committing some 50 million barrels of oil into the national energy system.

A drop in the bucket. According to the Petroleum Institute, the United States will have consumed about 17.2 billion barrels of oil as of next month.


Item: Panel makes cuts to proposed (county) budget

The good news is the legislative committee that held three hearings on Pat Ryan’s $351 million 2022 budget didn’t waste anybody else’s time but their own. Fewer than 15 people, collectively, showed up to testify at the three hearings the panel held on the budget.

The paradox is most of the legislators who ran for reelection this year claimed Ryan’s policies (including fiscal policy) as their own. Other than minority leader Ken Ronk, R-Wallkill, a voice in the wilderness after November’s elections, nobody made much of a peep over Ryan’s jacking spending from about $330 million to what’s on the table. About all the review committee did was tweak and whine. 

The committee might have been sending a signal to the increasingly cloistered executive that with a 17-vote veto-proof majority, they could be a formidable force in the new year. Do not bet the farm on that happening.

Ryan’s budget will be presented to the full 23-member legislature on Tuesday.


Item: Saugerties town board raises taxes almost nine percent

Ulster town supervisor Jim Quigley must have breathed a sigh of relief when he heard about that raid on taxpayers by his neighbors to the north. His town board had previously approved a 3.5 percent increase and did the town super catch hell for it.

I asked Quigley what happened to the state property tax ceiling of two percent.

“The law allows us to roll over sub-two percent tax increases. We’ve given the taxpayers some pretty lean budgets in recent years, and now…”.

It won’t happen, but I’d like to see formal budget votes taken before election day. November surprises can be painful.


Item: Don Gregorius dies

The term “nice guy” (or “gal”) is one of the more abused testaments in politics. Don Gregorius, who died at 75 in Woodstock last week, was much more than that.

Don was a nice guy, but more than that, a gentleman in every sense. One of the best listeners I covered in the county legislature, he liked to think outside the box. He liked to discuss issues and he had an open mind. Courtly was a word that would fairly describe him.

Don was a regular at Ulster Publishing’s Kingston office after he retired from the legislature where he liked to kibbitz about Woodstock affairs with Woodstock Times editor Brian Hollander. He was a man who made a contribution to his community.

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