New York, NY – Last week’s edition of our series on homelessness addressed a chronic weakness in New York City’s legal system. Once more, the subject of bail reform comes into sharp relief after a 61 year-old man named Simon Martial pushed 40 year-old Michelle Go to her death inside the Times Square Subway station on the morning of January 15. This frightening attack was unprovoked and senseless, but what if this could have been avoided?.
Simon Martial is no stranger to assault or arrest. He has a history of emotionally disturbed encounters with police. According to a source, his most recent arrest came just a few weeks before Go’s murder. But even with his history of arrests, Martial was somehow free to shove Go to her death.
The saturation of crime and rising violence we are witnessing screams for changes that go beyond the NYPD. “We arrest them and they’re let go,” my source told me. “What good is it to arrest someone if they’re free to go afterwards?”
The opposition to bail reform is nothing new. Then again, neither are unprovoked attacks. A prime example is the random assault on another Asian woman in Chinatown last summer. That attack was caught on video and led to the arrest of 48-year-old Alexander White. Like Martial, White is another person with a history of multiple assaults who the system somehow allowed to commit more violence.
With a records like these, did anyone realize that perhaps Martial and White where people in need of mental supervision? Where their records of habitual crime unrecognized?
At the time of White’s attack, former New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea compared the city’s legal system to a revolving door saying, “Far too often, people who should stay in jail are, instead, turned loose.”
Although Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have talked about plans to achieve a level of police “omnipresence” and improve outreach programs to the homeless population — bail reform at the state level needs to be seriously addressed.
As alluded to earlier, the weaknesses revealed in these horrific events extend far beyond law enforcement and bail reform. Perhaps our main focus should be on New York’s anemic mental health system and providing those suffering with severe mental health issues with the proper support or hospitalization they need. Perhaps this would protect the rest of us from unstable or emotionally disturbed people like Alexander White and Simon Martial. There are scores of others like them who fall into this category, whose actions are dangerous, but who are somehow allowed to hurt others.
I would have liked to ask Michelle Go, an MBA graduate and active New York Junior League volunteer, about her opinion on bail reform and senseless acts of violence aimed at the Asian community. But due to the revolving door of our legal system, Michelle is no longer available for comment. See what I mean?
Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on thewrittenaddiction.com, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Well-being and DEI Content Provider, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate. Ben can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org