DA Flynn says Hertel Avenue hate crime suspect was released due to new bail reform laws
The Buffalo Police Department charged a Cattaraugus County man with a hate crime Monday for allegedly threatening Black Lives Matter protesters on Hertel Avenue, but he was immediately released and given a ticket to appear in court more than a month from now.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says to blame New York state’s bail reform.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Flynn said he’s received several complaints from residents over the fact that Michael Cremen, 47, of Franklinville was released on an appearance ticket after his arrest Monday.
Authorities have identified Cremen as the man seen in a video and several photos allegedly brandishing a knife and using racial slurs while trying to block protesters from marching down Hertel Avenue Friday evening.
Flynn said the state’s new bail laws prevented Cremen from being ordered to pay bail or being arraigned in court altogether. Because Cremen’s charges did not meet the criteria for a qualifying offense, Cremen could only be given a ticket to be arraigned at a later date.
Flynn said he shares residents’ concerns.
“We have an individual here who had a knife, using the N-word allegedly, hateful speech, harassing and menacing peaceful protesters, and he's given a ticket to go home and come back in October,” Flynn said. “I think it's wrong.”
Bail reform critics had called for exceptions to be made for hate crimes, but that was not included in state lawmakers’ bail reform rollbacks, which were passed in April and took effect in July. Flynn said that although he mostly supports bail reform, he agrees exceptions need to be made for those who commit hate crimes.
“I'll continue to advocate and go back every year and get them to add a little more on that I think should be added on,” he said.
Flynn also noted that Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s recent police reform executive order prevented Cremen from even being processed, which entails having fingerprints and a mugshot taken. Asked for comment, Mike D’George, a spokesperson for Brown and Buffalo police, said in an email that officers “followed current arrest procedures.”
Many on social media have also raised concerns that Buffalo police did not immediately intervene in Friday night’s incident.
In the video, two patrol cars sit just a few feet away as Cremen uses racial slurs and brandishes a knife. Once most protesters had walked away, police approached Cremen and spoke with him but did not arrest him. He was allowed to turn himself in on Monday afternoon.
When WBFO asked Flynn about this, he said it’s possible that police did not hear Cremen use the slurs or see him holding the knife. He said Buffalo police contacted his office immediately after the incident and the decision to charge Cremen was made over the weekend.
“To be fair, I don't know what the officers saw or heard,” he said. “And whether or not the officer did or did not do his job is out of my lane, OK? (Buffalo police) can handle that.”
Cremen is charged with second-degree menacing and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, which are both class A misdemeanors. However, the menacing charge has been elevated to a class E felony due to the alleged hate crime.
He’s set to be arraigned Oct. 8.