New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has accepted the resignation of a mayoral appointee whose panel released former State Senator Guy J. Velella from prison 3 months into a 12-month prison sentence. The New York Times says the mayor has found himself increasingly on the defensive over the Local Conditional Release Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor’s office. Bloomberg met yesterday with panel chairman Paul Russi, who then announced that he had quit. Daniel Richman, a professor at Fordham Law School, will replace him.
Velella, a longtime political power in the Bronx, had been serving prison time on charges of conspiracy to accept bribes. The panel has powers to release nonviolent offenders before their terms expire and before they are even up for parole. Such panels were created by the legislature a decade ago to help reduce prison overcrowding, but lawmakers have called for them to be dissolved. Bloomberg said yesterday, “I think this commission has outlived its useful purpose and I would support legislation abolishing it.” Russi said the release decision was based on the fact that Velella had become sad and pathetic in jail and had suffered enough.