Contact: Phil Oliva, (518) 455-3756
For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Family of Slain Mother/Son Fight for Justice
"Hillary and Romello's Law" would ensure real prison time for habitual offenders of crime

Kareem Hayes was sentenced on January 25th to 50 years-to-life in prison for the murder of Hillary Downey and her 13-month old son Romello Taylor in Schenectady. Family of the victims, lawmakers and law enforcement say Hayes was a habitual offender who never served any significant prison time for his many crimes and shouldn't have been out on the streets. They gathered Wednesday at the State Capitol to push for a law that would establish the crime of aggravated criminal conduct making it a class E felony upon an individual's fourth Class A misdemeanor conviction within 10 years. A class E felony carries with it a sentence of 1-and-1/3 to 4-years in prison.

Hayes had a long history of arrests and convictions but little prison time to show for it because most of his offenses were classified as misdemeanors including 10 arrests in the two-and-a-half years prior to the murders. Most of Hayes' offenses were misdemeanor harassment and menacing charges but he also had a felony robbery conviction.

Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady, Saratoga) said Hayes was a "walking rap sheet" who evaded the justice system.

"We have to change the law because chronic offenders of seemingly low-level crimes often graduate to ever more serious and violent crimes as we unfortunately learned here. Also, the cumulative total effect of these crimes on a community far outweighs the individual impact of each one of them," said Tedisco. "What we're saying is, you'll get not only a second chance and a third chance with these 'minor' crimes… you'll even get a fourth chance to clean up your act and start obeying the law. If not, you're going to prison to learn."

"My daughter and grandson were brutally murdered by someone who served very little time for his numerous crimes," said Steve Downey, Hillary's father. "He knew he would serve little to no time for his offenses. I think this bill presented by Jim Tedisco should be passed to protect law-abiding citizens from violent offenders on the streets."

"How many more lives will be lost due to repeat criminal offenders being allowed out on the streets and in our communities?" asked Assemblyman David R. Townsend, Jr. (R,C,I,WF-Sylvan Beach), the Ranking Minority member of the Codes Committee and former police officer. "Like repeat felons, repeat misdemeanor offenders must face tougher penalties. They are chronic criminals and they belong in jail."

"Too often, misguided people become career criminals. Over and over they commit crimes against society. But, it is the innocent residents of New York that pay the price by being constantly victimized by repeat offenders who have no respect for them or for the legal system," said New York State Senator Frank Padavan (R-Queens), who has had similar legislation pass in the State Senate. "It's obvious that something needs to be done about this and both my bill and Assemblyman Tedisco's bill have merit to help correct this problem. These bills were held hostage by Shelly Silver and the Assembly Majority last year. It's time for the Speaker to allow this legislation to become law - for the good of all New Yorkers.

"The men and women of the Schenectady Police Department proudly stand behind this bill," said Bob Hamilton, President of the Schenectady Police Benevolent Association. "It is time for our communities to deal with the chronic lawbreakers who lower the quality of life of our residents by repeatedly breaking the law and getting off with a slap on the wrist. This law will ensure that repeat offenders will finally meet with a fair punishment for continuously breaking the law."

"Under current law, offenders may repeatedly commit crimes like shoplifting and criminal mischief that can over time result in tremendous damage to individuals or businesses," said John P. Grebert, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc. "At the same time; they can tie up the resources of police agencies. Historically, jail time is usually not given in these cases and the fines paid don't begin to cover the expenses of the victims, probation, police and the courts. The Aggravated Criminal Conduct Bill addresses this problem by providing harsher penalties for chronic offenders. The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police supports this bill and believes it will serve as a detriment and more fairly account for the damage done in communities by those individuals who commit these crimes."

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