Senate passes legislation to deny conditional release for those convicted of first-degree manslaughter

Photo courtesy of the New York State Assembly
From left, Sen. Marty Golden, R-Brooklyn, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, R-Staten Island, and former NYPD Detective and Mayoral Candidate Bo Dietl hold a press conference April 5 outside Gov. Cuomo’s Manhattan office in response to the conditional release of Christopher Thomas. The conditional release of Thomas, who killed 10 in 1984 including 8 children, spurred Golden to introduce the legislation denying conditional release to those convicted of first-degree manslaughter.

The New York Senate has passed legislation to deny conditional release of prisoners convicted of first-degree manslaughter.

Bill (S.8228) was introduced on April 20 by Senator Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn, and passed the Senate on May 1. Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, R-Staten Island, introduced the Assembly version, (A.10552) on May 4, where it has remained in the Code Committee.  

Golden and Malliotakis held a press conference earlier this session in response to the conditional release of Christopher Thomas, who was convicted of 10 counts of manslaughter in 1984 for the “Palm Sunday Massacre.”

Thomas was found guilty on 10 counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison. He was released from Shawangunk Correctional Facility on Jan. 5, 2018 due to the conditional discharge statute of New York State Penal law.

The statue mandates that, “for indeterminate sentences, this occurs when you have not been granted release by the Board of Parole, but have served two-thirds of your maximum sentence and there has been no loss of good time.”

Thomas applied for parole five times, each time he was denied by the Parole Board. Following his failed fifth attempt Thomas was eligible for conditional discharge as he had served two-thirds of his maximum sentence with good behavior.

The bill amends New York Penal Law making those serving time for a first degree manslaughter conviction ineligible for the conditional discharge program. Even with good behavior and two-thirds time served, conditional discharge would not be awarded.

“We want to make sure conditional release is not possible for despicable prisoners like Chris Thomas,” Golden said. “‘No,’ to a conditional release of manslaughter 1 and murder.”

Thomas entered the home of his drug dealer to purchase cocaine on April 15, 1984, Palm Sunday. The dealer was not home. Using two handguns and firing a total of 19 bullets at close range, he killed eight children and two women, one of whom was his dealer’s wife.

“It was a rainy day. I walked in there and saw kids sitting on couches with bullet holes in their head,” said arresting officer Bo Dietl, also present at the April 5 press conference. “Ten dead.”

The sole survivor, a 15 month-old girl, would later be adopted by a New York City Police Department officer.

The jury found Thomas guilty of manslaughter, making him eligible for conditional discharge once he served two-thirds of his 50 year maximum sentence, according to the statute.

Under the proposed law, Thomas would have never been eligible for conditional release and he would serve his maximum sentence of 50 years.

“Work with us to change the law so that someone who is convicted of such heinous manslaughter cannot be eligible for conditional release at any time,” Malliotakis said at the press conference.

The release of Chris Thomas is the third release of a high-profile killer from New York state prisons in the last five months.

In December 2017 John Ruzas was paroled after being incarcerated for 42 years for the 1974 murder of state trooper Emerson Dillon.

Last month Herman Bell was granted parole. Bell was convicted of the murders of two New York City officers and a California policeman in 1971.