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Feds cuff Brooklyn bank robbery suspect after state bail reform sets him free

This suspect, identified by law enforcement sources as Gerod Woodberry, robbed a Chase bank in Brooklyn on Jan. 10. (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

BY KAREN MATTHEWS

A federal prosecutor in New York said Friday that the case of a suspected serial bank robber accused of committing a heist in Brooklyn hours after being released from custody shows that the state’s newly enacted bail reform is making New Yorkers less safe.

Prosecutors say Gerod Woodberry, 42, 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. They say he robbed the Brooklyn bank hours after being released from jail.

“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.”

Donoghue said Woodberry turned himself in Friday as he was being sought by federal agents who 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.

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.

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.”

Associated Press