With One Abstention, One Nay, Reps
Petition NYS Board, Back Seward’s Bill
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – With board Vice Chairman Gary Koutnik abstaining, and another Democrat voting nay, the county Board of Representatives today asked the state Parole Board “to deny the release, conditional or otherwise,” of David Dart, convicted of slaying 18-year-old Jill Gibbons with a “Rambo-style knife” in the Oneonta Municipal Parking Garage in 1989.
The resolution, passed 12-1-1, also put the county board on record supporting a bill, S4354, introduced several times by state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, to increase the time between parole hearing for “violent crimes” from two to five years.
The issue has a particularly high profile right now, given last weekend’s “Justice for Jill” rally in Oneonta’s Muller Plaza, where Jill’s sister Jennifer Kirkpatrick asked attendees to sign a petition urging the Parole Board to extend the time between parole hearings for people like Dart.
As a late resolution (Dart’s next parole hearing is due Nov. 4, before the next county board meeting) introduced by county Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, and seconded by Kathy Clark, D-Otego, it looked at first that it might falter in a partisan split. It required two-thirds approval.
Noting Albany’s softening on issues of crime and punishment, Koutnik concluded, “I don’t feel ready to vote on the parole system of New York State,” and said he would abstain.
Said Michele Farwell, D-Butternuts, “I’d like the chance to do my homework” on the definition of “violent crime,” and inmates who saw the gap between parole hearings “wouldn’t necessarily have committed murder.” Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, also raised concerned about the “violent crimes” definition.
Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, called a brief recess for County Attorney Ellen Coccoma to research the issue, and she returned concluding that the term refers to a short list of convictions – “murder, aggravated murder” and the like.
Then, Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta, who is also a lawyer, proposed a modification to Wilber’s motion, adding the words, “after following its established procedures and exercising due diligence,” words that suggested the county board isn’t trying to impinge on the Parole Board’s responsibilities.
This seemed to ease individual members’ concerns, and board members shared memories of the community’s horror of what Wilber called a “heinous, vicious’ crime.
Farwell recalled the murder occurring just as she was graduating from high school: She was Jill’s age.
Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Upton, said she was “very well acquainted with the facts of the case,” as the Oneonta Farmers’ Market, where she was selling flowers, was held in the same parking deck where the crime occurred, although on another level.
“There was no question of guilt,” she recalled. “And zero remorse” on Dart’s part.
The motion then passed quickly, with the one abstention and Liz Shannon, D-Oneonta, voting nay.