Albany DA claims Senate Dems’ spinning ‘fiction’ after disinviting him from hearing

A prominent bail reform criticizing New York prosecutor says Albany Democrats are still telling tall tales about disinviting him from testifying at a Jan. 30 legislative hearing on crime data.

Albany District Attorney David Soares was set to speak on behalf of the District Attorneys Association of New York at the Monday hearing after the group notified the Senate the afternoon before the hearing that he would testify instead of its President J. Anthony Jordan.

“A representative from the Senate had said ‘anyone but Soares’ and cited that I had been critical of [criminal justice reforms] – and I was a bit dumbfounded,” Soares, a former president of the association, told The Post.

“I had gone into that night fully anticipating that I was going to be providing testimony, and it was not until 5:53 a.m. that Monday morning when I had engaged with [DAASNY President J. Anthony Jordan] and we both agreed that I would not be a distraction. I did not want to be a distraction and that out of deference that he should provide testimony,” he added.

Albany District Attorney David Soares says he was dsinvited from testifying at a legislative hearing because of his views on controversial criminal justice reforms approved by fellow Democrats.
Hans Pennink

Soares had planned to deliver scorching testimony, later published in the New York Post, laying out his problems with reforms passed by fellow Democrats, including data showing that 40% of defendants entered into a court pretrial database were re-arrested while their case was pending.

He also outlined issues with the Raise the Age law the diverts youthful offenders away from the adult judicial system such as data suggesting that sending them to family court hardly prevented many teens from later committing violent crimes.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins speaking in a wood paneled room at a podium with one of her trademark scarves
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has said that data would guide how her chamber approaches any changes to reforms.
Hans Pennink

A screenshot of the lawmakers sitting at a rostrum in a wood paneled hearing room
The District Attorneys Association of New York was one of the most critical voices on the side effects criminal justice reforms at the Jan. 30 hearing hosted by the state Senate and Assembly.

Michael Murphy, a spokesman for the state Senate Democrats, claimed that the association waited until the night before the hearing to inform lawmakers that Soares, rather than Jordan, would appear.

“Our staff called to find out the reasoning for the late change. District Attorney Soares was added to the witness list at the Association’s request. The next morning after the witness list was finalized and made public,” he said. “Mr. Jordan informed the legislature that he would be attending the hearing on behalf of the organization. At the hearing Mr. Jordan submitted testimony that he said was written by Mr. Soares,” Murphy said.

The issue of Soares’ non-attendance at the hearing gained additional attention in a Feb. 25 column in the Albany Times Union where Murphy asserted that there was “absolutely no truth” to the idea that Senate Democrats blocked the Albany DA from testifying.

DAASNY responded by slamming Murphy’s account in a Feb. 28 statement.

“Assertions were made that DAASNY, and DAASNY staff are being dishonest about the circumstances surrounding the Monday, January 30, 2023 Joint Hearing on Criminal Justice Data. This claim is inaccurate and undermines the credibility of our organization,” reads the statement.  

Jordan added in the statement that the idea that the Senate and Assembly, which also hosted the hearing, “‘accepted’ the written testimony of DA Soares is also inaccurate. The written testimony was submitted at the hearing by me, not by Mr. Soares.”

One result of the last-minute switcheroo was a change in optics at the hearing, with Jordan – a white Republican who also serves as the DA of rural Washington County – leading the charge at the hearing against controversial reforms instead of Soares, a black Democrat who has seen first hand how crime has ravaged the state’s capital.

“I appreciate you changing some of the language on the fly in some of the written testimony because quite frankly, some of the testimony as written is rather offensive. It’s a pejorative and it’s condescending,” state Senate Codes Committee Chair Jamaal Bailey told Jordan at the hearing while referring to submitted testimony that Soares was originally slated to deliver.

Bailed also said Soares saying in the submitted testimony that “just because your echo chamber repeats it, doesn’t make it true” was too “adversarial” for a hearing devoted to data ahead of the budget deadline.

Soares stuck to his guns when asked about the disconnect between his account and that offered by Murphy regarding his intended appearance at the hearing.

“Mr. Murphy statements are a work of fiction and that’s being very polite,” Soares said.