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Rob Astorino, Republican candidate for governor, speaks about gun laws and election issues outside the state Capitol on June 2, 2022, in Albany, N.Y. (AP) Rob Astorino, Republican candidate for governor, speaks about gun laws and election issues outside the state Capitol on June 2, 2022, in Albany, N.Y. (AP)

Rob Astorino, Republican candidate for governor, speaks about gun laws and election issues outside the state Capitol on June 2, 2022, in Albany, N.Y. (AP)

Jill Terreri Ramos
By Jill Terreri Ramos June 24, 2022

GOP challenger overstates parole board’s record under Hochul

If Your Time is short

  • Since Hochul became governor, five people convicted of killing police officers have been released on parole, according to a list maintained by a police union. 

  • In the last two years, there have been 15 such people released on parole, according to the union’s list. 

  • Astorino provided a list of 19 people who had been released since December 2017. 

 

Rob Astorino, a Republican running to unseat Gov. Kathy Hochul in November, said 20 people who had been convicted of killing police officers have been released on parole in the last two years. 

 "We’ve got a parole board right now that has released 20 cop killers in the last two years under Hochul. They should all be fired," Astorino said during a June 13 GOP primary debate. 

Republican candidates for governor -- former Trump White House official Andrew Giuliani, businessman Harry Wilson, Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island and Astorino -- have talked extensively about crime during their campaigns. We wondered if Astorino, a former county executive in Westchester County, was correct.  

We reached out to the Astorino campaign, and it sent a list of 19 people convicted of killing police officers who had been released on parole dating back to December 2017. The campaign also sent a news report that quoted a union leader who said there had recently been 23 such parole board releases. 

Hochul became governor on Aug. 24, 2021, following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo. Hochul had been lieutenant governor since 2015, having run on a ticket with Cuomo, although lieutenant governors are elected independently of their running mates. 

Astorino’s campaign spokesperson, Bill O’Reilly, said that Astorino was counting all of the releases while Hochul served as lieutenant governor and governor. Of the campaign’s list of 19 parolees, three were released during Hochul’s governorship. Six were released in the last two years.  

We also contacted the New York City Police Benevolent Association, which tracks these releases, and John P. Nuthall, a spokesperson, sent us a list of 34 people convicted in connection with the deaths of law enforcement officers, though the union said the list may not cover every such case statewide. Like Astorino’s list, the union list went back to late 2017. On the union’s list, five people had been released since Hochul became governor, and 15 were released in the last two years. 

PolitiFact confirmed the names on the list by using the state's inmate and parolee look-up databases, as well as news reports about the crimes. In one case, a parolee released in April 2020 on the union list was not convicted with the murder of a police officer, but was convicted in a robbery connected to the crime. In at least two cases, the parolee was deported after release.

Parole board members are appointed by the governor, and must be confirmed by the state Senate. They serve six-year terms, and can be re-appointed. There are 19 spots on the board, though not all are filled. Many were appointed by prior governors, though Hochul had a recent appointment. 

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We spoke with Martin F. Horn, a former executive director and chief operating officer of the New York State Division of Parole, who said that the governor's influence is indirect, and the board works independently. However, members generally want to get re-appointed, and tend to follow the governor’s political preferences. If they sense the governor is tough on crime, then they tend to be tough on crime too. But Horn said that governors generally don’t have influence on a case-by-case basis, and cannot remove members based on individual decisions. He could not recall a time when a governor asked for a certain ruling from the board for an inmate. 

The board sits in panels of three, and the panels are randomized, so it would be difficult to engineer a predetermined outcome for a specific inmate, Horn said. Lieutenant governors do not have influence over the board, he said. 

The state Parole Board falls within the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Spokespeople for the department declined to speak on the record about the number of people recently released on parole who had been convicted in connection with the death of a law enforcement officer. A Freedom of Information Act request for this information was not immediately fulfilled. 

Our ruling

At the GOP debate, Astorino said 20 people convicted of killing law enforcement officers were released in the last two years, under Hochul. 

Hochul became governor less than a year ago. Before that she was lieutenant governor. The governor appoints members of the parole board, and they must be confirmed by the Senate. The members are not appointed by the lieutenant governor. 

Asked for evidence of his claim, Astorino's campaign provided a list of 19 people who had been convicted of killing a law enforcement officer and had been released on parole since late 2017. Only six had been paroled in the last two years, and only three had been paroled since Hochul became governor. A more comprehensive list from a police union showed 15 had been paroled in the last two years, and five since Hochul became governor. 

Astorino’s campaign said the candidate included all of the parolees convicted in a police officer’s death since Hochul was lieutenant governor or governor. While Astorino’s tally of those parolees was 19, a police union list showed 34 such releases dating back four and a half years. 

But that is not what he said at the debate. Astorino said parole releases in the past two years, giving listeners the wrong impression about the time frame of these releases. 

We rate this claim False. 

Our Sources

Email, John P. Nuthall, spokesperson, New York City Police Benevolent Association, June 16, 2022. 

Email, William F. B. O’Reilly, spokesperson, Rob Astorino campaign, June 16, 21, 2022. 

PIX11, "Man who killed 1st female NYPD officer in line of duty released on parole after 36 years," Dec. 19, 2021.  

Phone interview, Martin F. Horn, professor emeritus, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, June 17, 2022.  

New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Parole Board Interview Calendar, various searches performed on June 17, 2022. 

Bolts/New York Focus, "Vacancies and Zombie Commissioners Leave Opening for Parole Reform in New York," Feb. 9, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. 

New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision parolee lookup

New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision inmate lookup

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GOP challenger overstates parole board’s record under Hochul

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