Three state lawmakers from New York’s Hudson Valley gathered in the City of Poughkeepsie earlier this week to call on the Assembly to pass a so-called “punishment fit the crime” bill when it is re-introduced next session. They met at an intersection where a Poughkeepsie couple lost their lives four years ago.
The intersection of Worrall Avenue and Route 55, or the Eastbound Arterial, was where, four years ago August 1, Shawn and Patricia Wonderly were killed when their vehicle was struck by Ryan Floryan, who ran a red light fleeing police. Their two children survived. In 2013, Floryan pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree manslaughter and is serving six-and-a-half to 13 years in prison. Shawn Wonderly’s father Larry Wonderly urges passage of a bill that would allow for consecutive sentences for homicide offenses.
“People have said that this is an anniversary. It is not an anniversary. An anniversary is a celebration and this certainly is not a celebration,” Wonderly says. “We lost two beautiful people four years ago and the guy that took their lives is not being punished as he should be. I ask, I plead, I beg, please, help make this bill so that nobody else has to go through this.”
Republican Assemblyman Kieran Lalor is co-sponsor of the bill.
“And, I should point out that his horrible tragedy happened four years. About two years ago, two young Bard College students were killed, a single act, similar situation and a similar injustice,” Lalor says. “How many times has this happened in our community? How many time in a state of 19 million are we going to let this injustice continue.”
Lalor referred to a 2014 fatal hit-and-run incident where a car struck two pedestrians who were Bard College students. Republican Sue Serino is the bill’s sponsor in the Senate where it passed twice.
“We will continue to fight for the this passage because it’s the right thing to do,” Serino says. “And we do it in honor of Shawn and Patricia Wonderly. And we do it for their children who are watching this process closely.”
Democrat Frank Skartados sponsors the bill in the Assembly, where the legislation has not advanced from the Codes Committee.
“They think that this is a constitutional issue, that the criminal in this case will be punished twice somehow,” says Skartados. “And that’s why I said it is two crimes regardless how you look at it. There was one act but, yes, two people lost their lives. Therefore it’s not a double jeopardy. There were two crimes that were committed and, therefore, there must be a punishment that fits those two crimes.”
Lalor says there are legal precedents that would allow for such a law in New York. He notes the legislation would not mandate consecutive sentences when two lives are taken by a single act but give a judge the option to impose consecutive sentences. Patricia Wonderly’s brother, Rich DeSantola, says he does not want the bill to continue languishing in committee.
“We want it to go to a vote. We don’t want it caught up in the budget complaints and then shoved off into the last minute when they decide it’s more important to sell liquor before noon on Sundays than it is to pass something punishing criminals,” says DeSantola.
DeSantola says he and Larry Wonderly started a “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” campaign three years ago. Again, Skartados.
“We will continue to fight because the rights of criminals must never trump the rights of innocent victims,” Skartados says.
Democrat Didi Barrett also is a co-sponsor in the Assembly.