GREENPORT, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A Cohoes man, who’s facing criminal charges, says bail reform has leveled the playing field and kept him out of jail and on the road to recovery while he remains legally innocent.
When Christopher Johnson was arraigned on a charge of 4th-degree grand larceny at Greenport Town Court, the judge, even knowing he had a mile-long rap sheet, could not set bail. Johnson got to walk out the front doors, and because of that, he says he’s bettering himself.
“Everyone deserves to have a fair chance at life. If I am convicted of this crime, then I deserve my punishment,” he said.
Johnson says he’s benefiting from bail reform. It’s allowing him to remain in his home, at his job, and with his family while fighting charges.
“Continue my recovery first, you know, continue working on myself but to provide for myself and my family,” he said.
The 30-year-old’s first brush with the law came at the age of 13. It was the start of his long battle with addiction and a life of drug-fueled crime.
“Especially with the heroin epidemic. You wake up sick and you’re going to rob your mother, your grandmother, a bank, anything. You know there’s money; you’re going for it,” said Johnson.
A criminal complaint accuses Johnson of stealing $2,147 dollars of electronics from the Walmart in Greenport last spring. There was a warrant for his arrest, but he ducked police knowing the justice system was tilted in favor of wealthy defendants.
“It was unfair. I’m watching people in the same predicament just get bailed out time after time, family just throwing money. They’re just going out there doing the same thing, and I can’t even get out and get a chance to get back going right again,” he said.
Johnson finally turned himself in earlier this month and was released. But he doesn’t agree with reforms across the board.
“Some people shouldn’t be let out; some of these crimes should not be on this list,” he said.
The distinction he makes is that none of his charges are for violent offenses. Johnson says he’s in treatment, is sober, and has a full-time job. There are at least 10 charges hanging over his head, but he’s optimistic about his future.
“I’m changing the way I live, I’m trying to live different and I’m thankful for bail reform,” he said.