Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
Bail Reform

Freed Due to NY Bail Reform Law, Serial Bank Robbery Suspect Arrested by Feds

Prosecutors say just hours after being released from custody for another robbery, Gerod Woodberry went into a Brooklyn bank and robbed it

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An accused serial bank robber — who stole from a bank right after being released due to New York's new bail reform law — surprisingly turned himself in to federal authorities in Lower Manhattan Friday.

Gerod Woodberry turned himself in as he was being sought by federal agents, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said. Federal agents took up the case because the state court system kept releasing him under the new bail law, which went into effect at the beginning of the year.

Prosecutors say just hours after being released from custody, 42-year-old Woodberry entered a Chase Bank branch in Brooklyn on Jan. 10 and handed a note to a teller that said, "THIS IS A ROBBERY BIG BILLS ONLY NO DYE PACKS."

According to a complaint unsealed Friday in Brooklyn federal court, Woodberry fled with about $1,000 in cash. Authorities say the robbery followed a spree in which Woodberry robbed four New York City banks between Dec. 30 and Jan. 8.

Prosecutors say Woodberry was arrested after the Jan. 8 robbery but was released on Jan. 10 under the state's hotly debated bail reform law, which eliminated cash bail and pretrial detention for most nonviolent felonies.

After passing bail reform measures, Gov. Cuomo said that there may be some alterations coming to the legislation — something advocates like Jumaane Williams are upset about and held a rally against. NBC New York’s Andrew Siff reports.

Donoghue said Woodbury's case shows that the state's newly enacted bail reform is making New Yorkers less safe.

"No sound, rational and fair criminal justice system requires the pretrial release of criminal defendants who demonstrate such determination to continuously commit serious crimes," U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement, adding, "The recent reforms have made a bad situation worse by entirely excluding classes of purportedly "nonviolent" felonies -- like the bank robberies here -- from pretrial confinement eligibility."

William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York Office, tweeted about Woodberry's arrest Friday, saying "You may think you can walk away from your crimes, but when the FBI/NYPD task forces have jurisdiction and the ability to stop criminal behavior, you will be held accountable."

Woodberry is scheduled to appear in federal court on Sunday for a detention hearing.

Some say bail reform is going to make the criminal justice system fairer for everyone, but district attorneys and police say the new law could put witnesses and victims in danger. Jonathan Dienst reports.

A spokeswoman for the New York County Defender Services, which has represented Woodberry, said the organization had no comment on the latest charges against him.

While opponents say bail reform is allowing dangerous criminals to walk free, supporters of the reforms say cash bail and pretrial detention for nonviolent crimes unfairly penalized low-income New Yorkers who could not afford bail.

"If you think bail is an issue, what happens if he posted it?" said New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a longtime advocate of bail reform. "All bail reform does is equalize people who have money with people who don't have money."

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