Editorial Roundup: New York

Albany Times Union. April 17, 2024.

Editorial: A stain on the badge

A member of the State Police molested boys in Saratoga County, and the agency covered it up; the Child Victims Act offers a chance for justice, again.

If you’re looking for a textbook example of why New York’s Child Victims Act was a necessary corrective to years of injustice and devastating silence regarding the sexual abuse of children, look no further than the case of Roger L. Coon Jr.

The veteran state trooper molested a long line of boys in and around Saratoga County in cases that reached back to the 1970s. In 1982, a teenager came forward to report that he had been victimized by Mr. Coon; other boys came forward to say the trooper had made advances and/or groped them. For some reason lost to the mists of history or the annals of prosecutorial indolence, Saratoga County District Attorney David Wait concluded that the testimony of all these witnesses was insufficient to prosecute Mr. Coon, who was allowed to swiftly and quietly retire with a taxpayer-funded pension.

As the Times Union’s Chris Hippensteel recently reported, the State Police’s own investigation came to this conclusion: “Since the Saratoga County district attorney has elected to forego any criminal prosecution and Coon is no longer subject to division disciplinary proceedings, further investigation into this matter would only provide for possible widespread public knowledge and embarrassment to the division.”

Read that sentence again and imagine the sort of law enforcement officer who would have the gall to put it in writing, knowing as they surely did that pedophiles are notorious recidivists. And note how its reasoning mirrors that of so many faith leaders who covered up abuse in a deluded effort to protect the good name of the church.

In 1984, Mr. Coon was finally charged by Mr. Wait’s office with molesting three boys between the ages of 10 and 12. His guilty plea resulted in three years’ probation — an outcome that elicited no remorse and appears to have done precisely nothing to stop his predations. In 2001, he was sentenced to six months in jail and five years’ probation for sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy. Although it was his second guilty plea, he received a sentence of just six months plus another five years of probation. He died two years later.

And that’s where the matter would have remained if not for the 2019 passage of the state Child Victims Act, which temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on previously time-barred civil actions based on the alleged sexual abuse of minors. David Gregson, who says he was abused by Mr. Coon for four years beginning around age 12, is suing the state in the Court of Claims; he argues the State Police either knew or should have known that a serial pedophile was preying on him and other boys, using the accoutrements of his official role — the uniform, the patrol car, the knowledge that his commands came with the color of law — to satisfy his perversion.

The case is headed to trial. While Mr. Gregson’s claims will need to be proven to a preponderance of the evidence in order for him to prevail, we can’t quite understand why the state would look at the mountain of evidence from its own investigation in 1982 and fail to recognize the monstrous moral failing of its actions — or rather inactions — four decades ago. The State Police certainly weren’t alone in letting Mr. Coon get away with so much for so long, but the agency owes a steep debt to Mr. Gregson and the rest of Mr. Coon’s victims.


Adirondack Daily Enterprise. April 17, 2024.

Editorial: Done deal? Not so fast

At a press conference on Monday evening, Gov. Kathy Hochul stood at the Capitol with senior members of her administration seated at her side and announced that an agreement had been made on the 2025 state budget.

If one were to see that press conference and some of the ensuing coverage, one might believe that the state Legislature had adopted a budget and that the deal was done, albeit done more than two weeks past deadline.

Not so.

“I’m pleased to announce that we have the parameters of a conceptual agreement on the Fiscal Year 2025 State Budget,” Hochul said on Monday. Emphasis on “parameters of a conceptual agreement,” because in reality, the state Legislature adopted another budget extender on Monday, pushing the deadline to pass a budget to this Thursday. State Sen. Liz Krueger, during a debate on that budget extender Monday evening, said the governor’s announcement about this “conceptual agreement” was news to her, the Albany Times-Union reported. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins were notably absent from the governor’s press conference.

This is not the first time that a governor has announced a budget deal before that deal was finalized. It probably won’t be the last time. It’s no doubt more convenient to have state taxpayers believe that the budget is done, alleviating some pressure from lawmakers as they push to make that a reality. It’s good to receive updates as the budget process moves forward — we certainly believe that there are plenty of taxpayers waiting to hear about the budget — but we see announcements such as this as a disingenuous practice, a proclamation of victory before there’s formal details and documents on paper for taxpayers to scrutinize.

So, is the state budget done?

As of Tuesday morning, the answer is no.