Following the sentencing of Conses Garcia-Zacarias earlier this week, Assemblyman Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson) has pledged to reform the state’s parole guidelines and to renew his call that state lawmakers immediately take action to enact a “zero-tolerance” for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) law statewide. Ball is the main sponsor of such legislation, which he drafted in response to the death of Lori and Kayla Donohue, the Brewster mother and daughter who were killed by Garcia-Zacarias, an illegal alien who was driving while intoxicated.
“Regretfully, the current maximum sentence of 8½ years to 25 years is not enough. And sadly, with our state’s current parole guidelines, this killer could be released in one-sixth of that time. Idiotically, corrections Law 803, Section 2, Subsection A outlines the maximum parole for convicts serving concurrent sentences is one-sixth the minimum sentence and one-third the minimum sentence for those serving consecutive sentences. This is despicable and insensitive in this case and a perfect case of New York’s revolving door justice. This is exactly why the crime of DWI continues to pervade our community. The victims of DWI deserve better than that, our community deserves better than that, and I am determined not only to heighten sentences for those who choose to get behind the wheel drunk and murder others, but to reform our state’s broken parole system as well,” said Ball.
Ball is now taking a hard look at the state’s parole guidelines and aiming to heighten them as well. He stated, “We need to move forward aggressively and intelligently at the local level to make Putnam safer in the wake of this tragedy. This was no accident and could have been prevented. Now, elected officials must do everything in our power to keep residents safe.”
On June 8, 2010 both Assemblyman Ball and the entire Brewster community were shocked to the core when Garcia-Zacarias drove drunk into the 8-year-old second grader and her mother as they were leaving the Seven Stars School of Performing Arts. Garcia-Zacarias had a blood-alcohol level of twice the legal limit and no driver’s license. Following the devastating tragedy, Ball vowed to reform the state and county DWI laws and formed a coalition of state and local lawmakers, law enforcement and business owners who all aimed to finally curb the high instances of DWIs in the Hudson Valley and prevent deaths like these from happening again.
Last summer, Ball announced the coalition’s plan, which included agreements to implement a designated driver program, creation of a Task Force on DWI through the Putnam County District Attorney’s Office, implementation of mandatory countywide TIPS-certified training for bar owners and employees and a public awareness campaign as well as strengthening countywide DWI laws to include mandatory ignition interlocks, SCRAM bracelets and vehicle seizure.
On a state level, Ball authored and introduced the toughest DWI legislation in the nation. His statewide bill would heighten all penalties for driving under the influence or DWIs. Ball is in the process of further strengthening the bill to include the strictest possible sentences for those who kill someone while driving under the influence. While Albany agreed to heighten some penalties through the enactment of Leandra’s Law (with Ball’s support) in November, which increases penalties for those who drive drunk with children in the car, a zero tolerance statewide law was not put on the books. In 2007, Ball also voted to enact Katie Flynn’s Law, which created the crimes of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, a class B felony and Aggravated Vehicular Assault, a class C felony.
“I support Assemblyman Ball’s initiative to tighten parole laws to help ensure offenders, who continue to pose a danger, do not obtain early release from prison. Justice demands that someone who takes a life while committing a crime, must pay his debt to society,” Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith said.
“The closing of loopholes in New York sentencing guidelines is necessary. This illegal alien criminal, by actions of his own choosing, took the lives of two of our neighbors and friends. The DWI aspects of these deaths are only half of the story, sadly, the problem of criminal activity among the illegal alien population in our area can only be addressed when our elected officials recognize the scope of the problem and address it in a uniform, consistent way. This means enforcing existing laws and fully prosecuting those individuals who employ illegal aliens,” Ed Kowalski of 9/11 Families for a Secure America said.
Ball is now reviewing the state’s parole guidelines and aiming to heighten them as well. He stated, “We need to do everything in our power to keep residents safe. That is the most important priority state lawmakers have. What good are tough punishments when our system can still allow criminals to be paroled early? This is an issue that Albany needs to look at and I will do everything I can to reform this broken system.”