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Sen. Helming blasts criminal justice reforms after undocumented immigrant appears in Cayuga County Court

Bail set at $500K for undocumented immigrant who killed Weedsport man in DWI wreck

On Wednesday, Heriberto Perez-Velasquez appeared in court.

Perez-Velasquez, an illegal immigrant who was residing in Savannah at the time of a fatal DWI crash in Weedsport

Mark Knapp, a Weedsport man, was riding a tractor on Route 31 when it was struck from behind by Perez-Velasquez.

He fled the scene, but was taken into custody. And on Wednesday, in order to avoid the risk of deportation, his attorney – Rom Canzano – advised that he ask for bail.

Perez-Velasquez did request bail, and it was set at $500,000.

Under New York’s new bail reform law, Perez-Velasquez would have qualified for release, but as an undocumented immigrant, if he were released, he would have risked being taken into ICE custody.

His next court appearance is set for February 11th.

Helming holds press conference, speaks out after Cayuga County court appearance

Senator Pam Helming spoke out again on Wednesday about bail reform changes, which she says will put local communities at risk.

These changes will eliminate cash bail and pre-trial detention for nearly all misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses. Offenders will be back on our streets, threatening the safety of victims, victims’ families and the general public as a whole.

“Sadly, these ‘reforms’ have already brought serious and tragic repercussions including one we have seen right here in the Finger Lakes. Mr. Mark Knapp, a 59 year old hardworking, law abiding citizen who was loved by his family and friends, was struck and killed by another driver, Heriberto Perez-Velasquez who was in our country illegally and was driving drunk,” Sen. Helming said.  “My heart goes out to the Knapp family who is struggling with the sudden loss of Mark, who was a husband, father, and brother. His seat at the Thanksgiving table was empty and now his family must now spend this Christmas season without him.”

She called this situation a ‘horrific result’ of the new laws, which take effect on January 1st. “Despite taking an innocent life, a dangerous man like Perez-Velasquez will be eligible for mandatory release. More so, due to an exception to the new laws, Perez-Velasquez has requested bail be set to remain in the local jail so he may avoid being taken into federal custody,” Sen. Helming added.

“This legislation goes way too far and Mark Knapp and his family are just one of the many that have been affected by its implementation.  In this new system, there is no care for the victims or their families and friends and this is not justice. And unfortunately, there will be more harm to come.  As I have said before, this is not a Democrat or Republican issue; it is a matter of public safety.  Without having a deterrent against committing a crime, our fates and the fates of our loved ones are held at the hands of those who have no regard for the safety of others. Emphasis should always be put on the victim and that is the biggest flaw in these new and dangerous laws.  I will honor the life of Mr. Knapp and will fight with his family, my colleagues and law enforcement to continue to call for change to these bad reforms,” Sen. Helming concluded.

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