Tara Agostini (NYS BOARD OF PAROLE)
Tana Agostini certainly had a lot of experience with the criminal-justice system when Gov. Cuomo named her to the Parole Board: She’d not only been a staffer for the state Assembly committee that oversees the prisons, she’d fallen in love with a convicted murderer, married him and then engineered his parole.
Whether that makes her an objective member of the board is a very different question.
Thomas O’Sullivan was doing 25 to life for a hired murder in Queens. He escaped from jail for a month while awaiting trial; a prosecutor in his case said he made a death threat at sentencing. In prison, he bit off part of another inmate’s nose.
But Agostini got Parole Board Chairman Bob Dennison to meet O’Sullivan and then pen a letter in favor of parole, which was granted in 2013.
While she wasn’t part of the panel that voted to parole cop-killer Herman Bell, the fact that she’s the sort of advocate Cuomo’s been naming to the board certainly helps explain that decision.
After all, as the suit to overturn Bell’s parole notes, the board ignored the legal mandate to read past sentencing minutes before it ruled. That could easily have left the members too prone to believing the former Black Panther’s dubious claims to be “so changed” a man “that you would want me to be your neighbor.”
Problems go beyond the board. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice John Kelley last week seemed inclined to order a new hearing to force parole for Judith Clark — the domestic terrorist who assisted in the 1981 Brinks robbery that left three dead.
Kelley apparently thinks the board relied too heavily on letters from police organizations condemning Clark — who was only eligible for parole because Cuomo reduced her sentence.
Parole is a vital part of the justice system, far too important to politicize. But New York already seems all too far down that path.