News10NBC Investigates: RPD-ATF method of gun arrests to keep suspects in jail is put to the test

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — If you’ve been watching our investigative work you know we’ve been telling you about a new method of arresting people in Rochester who have illegal guns so that the defendants stay in jail longer.

Today News10NBC was in the courtroom when the method got put to the test.

Here’s how it works:

RPD arrests someone with an illegal gun. If the suspect is a convicted felon, has a criminal amount of drugs on them, or is alleged to have committed a crime with the gun—the RPD calls the ATF which does a background check on the weapon. If the background check finds the gun was made outside New York, it becomes a federal case where the laws and penalties are tougher and there is no bail.

That is, until a detention hearing and that’s what happened Thursday.

The hearing in federal court was to see if Christian Cruz should stay in jail or get out. When Cruz was arrested by RPD, the complaint says he fought with officers.

When ATF ran the make, model and serial number of the gun RPD says it found on Cruz it came back as manufactured outside New York and “therefore affected interstate commerce.”

“I would say it’s a knee-jerk reaction to what’s happening,” Michael Schiano, Cruz’s lawyer, said.

Brean: “I think that’s what our community wants though, something to fight the violence that’s going on.”
Michael Schiano: “Well that would be one of the options available to the government here and I think that’s what they’re doing here.”

Cruz has no criminal record. But in court, the assistant U.S. Attorney said Cruz had cocaine in “distribution quantities” and said “fighting with police with a loaded gun is extremely dangerous” and therefore he is dangerous. In federal court, judges are allowed to consider dangerousness when deciding whether a defendant should be released. That is not a consideration in city or state courts.

Cruz has been in jail since he was arrested two weeks ago.

Brean: “If your client’s case was a regular case in state court, do you think he would remain in custody?”

Schiano: “No, he’s a first time offender with no record whatsoever. He’s 24 years of age. He has a job. And he’d be entitled to some type of bail.”

Brean: “But now it’s in federal court and…”

Schiano: “… they’re moving for detention right now.”

The federal probation report recommends Cruz should be released. Judge Mark Pederson said he’ll make a decision Friday morning.

What we can tell you is that every single person we’re aware of arrested using this RPD-ATF method is still in custody.