Bailing out

County Judge Bryan Rounds has had a rather easy time of it his first two years in office. Elected without opposition to a ten-year term in 2019, the former defense attorney negotiated the pandemic in relative obscurity. That changed when a state trooper was indicted for murder in the December 2020 traffic death of 11-year-old Monica Goods of Brooklyn last week.

The judge’s first major decision in this gut-wrenching case occurred when he denied bail for indicted murderer trooper Christopher Baldner and sent him back to county jail until trial, expected in February.

For the judge, who has gotten good marks for dispensing even-handed justice during his brief term on the bench, this was a no-win situation. No matter how he ruled, the losing side would cry foul. And they did.

Baldner won’t be able to spend time with his family over the holidays, said his supporters. Monica never will.

Baldner supporters decried the judge’s decision, arguing that bail was not meant for punishment but to assure the accused would return to court for trial. Baldner’s attorney, contending his client was not a flight risk, asked for $100,000 bail. “Based on what’s been presented here today,” said Rounds, without explanation, he then ordered the defendant returned to jail, adding that decisions in the case would be made in the courtroom, not outside it.

It would already seem too late for that. To wit:  As Rounds and attorneys were speaking, a large group of Goods family supporters gathered on the front lawn of the uptown courthouse shouting “lock him up.” A smaller group of trooper supporters were accusing the state of conducting a “political trial.”

It is now apparent that every decision this judge makes will be met with vociferous opposition from the side that considers itself aggrieved. No justice, no justice. As perceived.

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UP THE DSA – It would seem the so-called progressive Democratic Socialists of America (party) has permeated the very fabric of our politics. And they’re not done. Not by a long shot.

DSA elected their first candidate on Nov. 2 when Democratic nominee Phil Erner defeated two opponents for a seat on the county legislature from Kingston. In doing so, Erner knocked off a 28-year veteran in legislature chairman Dave Donaldson. Holy anti-establishment!

I’ll give Donaldson a pass for his election night rave that he lost the election because county executive Pat Ryan “betrayed” him. The man once called “Dancin’ Dave” was simply smarting from an embarrassing defeat by an unknown.

Ryan, who walked the district with Erner, made it clear that he would “only endorse Democrats” in this election.

“Does that mean you’re not endorsing Donaldson,” I asked him face to face a month before the election.

“I am only endorsing Democratic candidates,” he repeated. Donaldson was not a Democratic candidate for the first time in his 28-year political career.

In Kingston’s swing district Seventh Ward, newcomer Mike Olivieri, running on the Republican and Conservative lines, eked out a 54-vote victory over Democrat Laura Nordstrom. But within days Olivieri, an enrolled Democrat, announced he would caucus with council Democrats, giving Dems all nine seats on the council.

One might have expected city GOP chairman John Quigley to commit ritual suicide over this apparent betrayal, but no.

“I’m OK with it,” Quigley said. “Mike’s a principled, honest guy. The most important thing is a DSA candidate did not get elected.” Olivieri was not available for comment. (In journalize, that means he didn’t return my call. He made his announcement in the Freeman.)

Speaking of my favorite daily, I thought the Freeman provided excellent, balanced coverage of the Baldner bail hearing. May they keep up the good work on what will be a highly-charged, emotional trial. 

On Saturday afternoon, a citizen action group called Rise Up Kingston, close confederates of the DSA, was going door to door with pamphlets urging aldermen to defund the police.

Rise Up contends that 25 percent of the city budget is dedicated to the police department (something over $11 million) but that 22 percent of dispatches are for calls that don’t require an armed police officer.

Like what, you ask? Like “welfare checks, lockouts, medical related issues” and the ever- annoying “noise disturbances,” including “fireworks.” (I am quoting off the flyer).

It is noteworthy that this flyer was distributed four days after the election, not before when public opinion might have been reflected at the polls. Aldermen will vote on the budget next month.

And finally, we have the first DSA candidate for high office. Sarhana Shrestha of Esopus has announced she will challenge long-term assemblyman Kevin Cahill in next year’s elections for state legislature. Whether she does an Erner on Cahill – challenge him in a Democratic primary – remains to be seen.

Shrestha is a native of Nepal who emigrated here in 2001 to study commuter graphics in New York City. She’s been a resident of Esopus for three years.

I doubt if she will be the last DSA candidate to challenge an incumbent Democrat, most likely at primary.