ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : Last fall, Tony Montelaro and his wife convinced the New Jersey Parole Board to keep their daughter’s killer behind bars. The 70-something couple trekked back to Florida emotionally spent — but grateful that the man who abducted and butchered Kim Montelaro would remain imprisoned long enough so they’d never make the trip again. Or would he?
On outgoing Gov. Corzine’s desk is a bill that would make convicts — including rapists and murderers — eligible for a parole hearing no later than three years after they’ve been denied release.
The 11th-hour provision was included in a trio of bills passed without comment by both houses of a lame-duck Legislature in Trenton earlier this week.
“I don’t understand it,” Montelaro told CLIFFVIEW PILOT by phone Wednesday night from the family’s Florida home. “Last fall was the third time we went through that experience. What we don’t need is a repeat of this every three years.
“Burglary and white-collar crime are one thing. But this doesn’t distinguish between those criminals who have been sentenced for rape and murder and the others.
“Never should that law be passed to allow people like that to come up for parole every three years. It is such an injustice to the loved ones of those who have been raped and murdered,” the angry father told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Led by first-year Assemblyman Bob Schroeder, citizens throughout North Jersey are writing letters urging Gov. Corzine to reject the measure. A particular effort is being made through Schroeder’s group, KeepBergenSafe.com , which collected letters and signatures supporting the Montelaros.
Schroeder called the three-year provision an “outrage” that all but guarantees the loved ones of murder victims will never find closure.
Freedom would also be possible within the next year or two for, among others, Joseph McGowan, who raped and murdered grade-school Girl Scout Joan D’Alessandro, and the remorseless Christopher Righetti, who killed Kim Montelaro.
“For me, this is not a matter of politics,” Schroeder told CLIFFVIEW PILOT late Wednesday. “It is about protecting the rights and well-being of victims and their families. “We cannot let this happen.
“Just a few months ago, Rosemarie D’Alessandro, the courageous mother who fought for Joan’s Law in honor of her slain child, had finally found peace because her daughter’s rapist/killer had exhausted all of his parole appeals.
“But, if Governor Corzine signs A4202 into law before he leaves office, Joan’s killer could be eligible for parole once again, and Rosemarie D’Alessandro’s nightmare would begin anew….The same mandate would apply to the Righetti case, and the Montelaro family would also be forced to relive the horror of the parole process every three years.”
Here’s the kicker: All three bills were scaled down to an estimated cost of $6 million.
Is that going to fly with incoming Governor Christopher Christie? Would Corzine saddle the already-overburdened state with such a cost?Schroeder with the Montelaro family PROPERTY OF CLIFFVIEW PILOT LLC (No use without permission.)
The bills nonetheless were hailed in some quarters for their stated intent of keeping fewer ex-cons from returning to prison by creating more opportunities. No mention was made of the fact that even straight arrows are having trouble finding work these days.
“While there may be some parts of the legislation that make sense from a public policy perspective, the costs related to these measures are something New Jersey simply cannot afford,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union).
The measures call for, among other things, mandatory workforce skills education and training; time served as “credits” for achievements in the classroom; and allowances for visits to other prisons to help “motivate and assist” other convicts.
Late additions were made to the bills just before they reached the floors of the Senate and the Assembly, where they were approved Monday without discussion.
These includes a cap “at a maximum of three years, the length of time that the parole board can require an inmate denied release to serve before having another hearing.
“Currently, the board must develop a schedule of future parole eligibility dates for adult inmates denied release at their eligibility date. The schedule places particular emphasis on the severity of the offense for which the inmate was denied parole and on the characteristics of the offender,” bill A4202 says.
What can YOU do?
* Call Gov. Corzine’s Office: 609-292-6000. Mention CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM .
* Follow this link to his online email form: http://www.state.nj.us/governor/about/contact/
What’s more, the bill requires that state officials “enter into formal parole contract agreements with individual parolees or inmates which stipulate that if the affected parolee or inmate successfully fulfills the educational, training or other terms of the agreement, the parolee’s term of parole will be reduced or the inmate’s primary parole eligibility date will be moved up.”
“Why do they slip things in at the last minute so that people are not aware of this?” Anthony Montelaro asked Wednesday night.
Many people are asking the same question, ever since CLIFFVIEW PILOT pointed out the additions in stories published Tuesday.
Earlier media reports made no mention of the three-year provision — or of the creation of a “blue ribbon” panel that would consider whether anyone who has already served more than 20 years in state prison be considered for release.
The key sponsor,Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman, knows how difficult it is overcoming a criminal past:
Eight years ago, two of her sons were sent to prison after pleading guilty to first-degree armed robbery in the heist of a Kids ”R” Us clothing store just a few miles from the Statehouse. William Carter-Watson and Jared C. Coleman both were released in January 2008 after serving six years each of maximum seven-year sentences, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
By giving non-violent convicts a leg up, she argues, the state could prevent them from returning to prison. What Watson-Coleman can’t explain is why violent rapists, murderers and others needed to be included.
On the other side of the battle are people like Rosemarie D’Alessandro, whose grade-school daughter was killed by a man who could benefit from the so-called Inmates’ Bill of Rights. (See: Pressure on Corzine to squelch parole bills )
“People have been getting in touch with me all day as a result of your article,” she told CLIFFVIEW PILOT late Wednesday afternoon. “They’re going to write letters and make phone calls to the governor opposing these bills.”
D’Alessandro called Corzine’s office this morning. Although she said she didn’t get a direct answer to her question, a designee told her that the governor has a huge stack of measures awaiting his signature before he leaves office Tuesday.
In doing so, D’Alessandro said, the spokeswoman apparently left open the possibility that Corzine could simply leave Christie holding the bills.
Chances are excellent that the new governor — most recently New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor — would oppose the moves because of their cost.
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