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Cuomo vetoes bill to transfer jurisdiction over Rikers to Queens

By Bill Parry

Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill Monday that would have transferred jurisdiction to prosecute crimes at New York City jails from the Bronx district attorney to the Queens DA.

The legislation that passed the Senate and Assembly nearly unanimously, was backed by the guards union at Rikers Island.

Cuomo said the switch would be “unprecedented and unconstitutional” to take jurisdiction away from Bronx DA Robert Johnson because Rikers is part of Bronx County even though it is connected by bridge to Queens.

Supporters of the legislation argued that moving cases to Queens would increase efficiency. The Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association endorsed the bill, saying Johnson has failed to vigorously pursue cases of assaults on its members.

The New York Civil Liberties Union applauded the veto.

“We’re relieved that Gov. Cuomo has put the health and safety of people, kids and even prison guards at Rikers Island over the political gamesmanship for the Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “We need more accountability at Rikers, not less, and a wholesale reform of the culture of corruption and abuse that has gone on for too long.”

Johnson and Queens DA Richard Brown wrote a joint letter to the governor urging that he veto “this ill-advised legislation.” A Brown spokesman said, “We are gratified by Gov. Cuomo’s veto of the bill.”

. The Bronx district attorney has prosecuted crimes at Rikers Island since the county itself was established 100 years ago. If Cuomo had signed the bill, it would have been the first time in history that the New York state government had overriden a county’s authority to prosecute crimes that take place within its borders.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr‌y@cng‌local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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