Updated: September 22, 2021 11:17 PM
Created: September 22, 2021 11:00 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester area law enforcement and Gov. Kathy Hochul are giving sharply differing verdicts on the state’s new law to keep parolees from being reincarcerated for parole violations.
"I heard on the news that he was released,” exclaimed Jessica Majors, saying that, just like police, she was surprised to learn 21-year-old Joseph Rivera, the man accused of killing her sister with a hatchet was suddenly let out of Monroe County Jail on Tuesday.
"He shouldn't have been released,” she declared. “He killed my sister like an animal. And he's 21 years old and if he can be that brutal, commit that rule of a crime at 21, he doesn't need to be out."
Rivera was arraigned Wednesday on murder charges for the July killing of 47-year-old Heather Majors at her home on Chili Avenue.
Once they identified him as their suspect a few days after the crime, Rochester Police locked him up, back then for violating his parole from an earlier felony conviction.
But Rivera had to be arrested again on Tuesday a few hours after was let go under the new "Less is More" Act signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, which says convicts on parole can't be locked up for violating their parole.
The release of the convicts brought blistering criticism from law enforcement, like Monroe County Chief Deputy Michael Fowler.
"My message to the victims is 'Albany is not listening to you,'” Fowler said. “There is a distinct pattern out of Albany that they don't care about victims and crimes and that's what we've been saying over the past few years. And the evidence is coming at us every single day."
In a visit to Rochester Wednesday, Gov. Hochul said police should investigate and arrest suspects for their alleged new crimes, not for parole violations.
"Individuals should not be held because of a technicality,” she said. “Now, anyone who the police think is guilty of murder, if they can build a case on murder, I believe they did the right thing here. These people should be in jail."
"There can't be probably a more ignorant statement that somebody could make then 'Well they should've just arrested him,'” said Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino. “We have a very heavy burden that we need to meet before we can make an arrest."
Police say the "Less is More" Law hamstrings their ability to stop and investigate repeat criminals because it leaves witnesses in fear of criminals allowed to stay on the loose and that it also creates a frightening situation for victims and their families.
Rochester detectives say they got "frantic" calls from Jessica Majors's relatives after Rivera was released.
"We are simply saying that our jails and other places don't have room to keep these individuals who are not dangerous to society because of their parole violations,” Gov. Hochul said.
Rochester Police say they’re working to adapt and that, from now on, the Monroe County Jail will alert all local law enforcement about who’s about to be released under the law, so investigators can do something to keep locked up those they can keep locked up.
"Less bad guys in jail, less witnesses will come forward and talk because they are afraid,” Umbrino said. “Less crimes solved. More people victimized."
Rivera is now being held in the Monroe County Jail without bond.
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