Saugerties police have arrested the same individual 14 times since April 1

Robert Guarino, a resident of a Saugerties location of the Anderson Center for Autism, was arrested by the Saugerties Police Department twice in one day last week, bringing his total to 14 arrests since April 1. Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra said the ongoing issues with Guarino are proof that bail reform in New York State has not worked. 

Bail reform went into effect in New York State on January 1, 2020, in part eliminating some pretrial detention and cash bail, which proponents of the reform said inequitably punished those who could not afford to pay bail. Cash bail was still allowed for nearly all violent felonies and some nonviolent felonies, like sex offenses and witness tampering, and an amendment to the reform that went into effect on July 1 added other crimes to this category, including vehicular assault and second-degree robbery. In most misdemeanor cases and nonviolent felonies, judges are still required to release people with less restrictive conditions, with cash bail prohibited. 

In the late afternoon on Thursday, July 16, Guarino was arrested at the Anderson Center on Fortune Valley Lane after a 911 report of a male subject breaking windows at the facility. Guarino was arrested and processed by Saugerties Police, then arraigned in the Town of Saugerties Justice Court where he was issued an order of protection on behalf of Anderson Center staff. According to the police report, Guarino was then released on his own recognizance and turned over to the Anderson Center staff. 

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According to the police report, the Saugerties Police Department was called back to the Anderson Center at 9:51 p.m., where a subsequent investigation found that Guarino had broken more windows, and also allegedly punched a staff member in the face and broke the staff member’s Apple Watch. Guarino was again arrested and brought before the Town of Saugerties Justice Court after which he was remanded to the Ulster County Jail in lieu of $5,000 cash bail or a $10,000 bond. 

Following these latest incidents, Guarino was charged with Criminal Contempt of a Court Order in the 1st Degree (felony), Criminal Mischief in the 3rd Degree (felony), two counts of Criminal Mischief in the 4th Degree (misdemeanor) and Harassment in the 2nd Degree (violation). 

“This is the epitome of the failure of bail reform,” said Sinagra. “This is happening around the state with cases like this. Fourteen arrests before we can get this person into a jail. In the meantime, you have workers at the facility that are getting injured, some of them seriously. And you have property that is being damaged.”

Sinagra said that Guarino’s prior arrests and subsequent releases meant the criminal justice system has become “a revolving door for him.” 

“He comes into the system, he gets brought to headquarters, he gets fingerprinted and photographed,” Sinagra said. “He likes the attention. And because these are non-arraignable (sic) qualifying offenses, the best we can do is give him a court date to come back to the court.”

The Anderson Center for Autism, headquartered in Staatsburg, did not respond to queries about Guarino, but Sinagra said he may require more precise care than he’s currently receiving. 

“He actually suffers from a behavioral disorder PTSD is what we’re bring told,” said Sinagra. “When he’s highly functional and when you speak to him, you don’t really detect that there’s an issue. Because it’s a behavioral issue, when he doesn’t get his way, that’s when he becomes violent. I’ve had conversations with the workers at this location, and they’re not capable of handling him when he goes into one of his fits and rages.”

Sinagra said that the Saugerties Police Department worked with the District Attorney’s office and local judges last week, and that they all appear to be on the same page. 

“I think everybody’s had enough at this point,” said Sinagra. “The judge gave Mr. Guarnio a very stern warning that future conduct of this sort could result in him going to jail. And it wasn’t even two hours later, we’re back at the residence dealing with him because he broke more windows, he punched a worker, he broke their watch.”

Sinagra said that should Guarino be released following his next court appearance, he’d like to see him moved from the Anderson Center. 

“I don’t want to see him go to prison,” Sinagra said. “He needs to go someplace where he can get help…I believe everybody’s on the same page right now, and if he gets released, he needs to be released to a different facility, a facility where the healthcare providers can adequately handle somebody of his caliber. Somebody that can help him with his anger-management issues. We just can’t keep ignoring it. And that’s what we’ve been doing up until this point.”

Sinagra said that because bail reform has allowed Guarino to repeatedly be released in spite of a spate of arrests, he’s still a potential danger to others. 

“My biggest concern as police chief is that he’s already demonstrated an ability to be violent enough to hurt someone,” Sinagra said. “What’s going to happen when we have one of those encounters with our law enforcement officer. We are being forced into a position where we may have to go hands-on, physical force with him? And depending on the extent of his anger and outrage and circumstances occurring at that specific moment, this could end up being a fatal situation for my officer or for Mr. Guarino. I’m very frustrated over that.”

There are 4 comments

  1. Bill H

    I feel awful for the staff at this facility and Guarino, who is clearly suffering. It is totally unacceptable for the staff at this facility to be repeatedly harassed and to be put in danger. And it is ridiculous that the only viable response our community has to call the police and arrest this man. One problem here is that we are requiring that the police and criminal justice system deal with this, when is clearly what those systems are NOT designed to do. When will be learn this?

    I totally respect that the folks at this facility will protect the privacy of a man who is a resident of their facility, and not share whether he is a person with autism (the population the Anderson Center serves?), or suffers from “a behavioral disorder PTSD,” as Sinagra stated. It is great that he knows that, but in one of the final paragraphs of this article Sinagra is quoted as complaining that, “The judge gave Mr. Guarnio a very stern warning that future conduct of this sort could result in him going to jail. And it wasn’t even two hours later, we’re back…” A very stern warning. Is that how we deal with people with social-emotional, or mental disorders? Sadly, yes, if we are leaving it up to the police and criminal courts. This is about as creative as the criminal justice system will be with such people. A “very stern warning” clearly does not work with folks that are not able to understand such a thing, or manage their own behavior.

    But here is the most alarming part of this article. Sinagra states very clearly (and kudos to him for doing so) that if it is the POLICE that are called on to deal with those suffering from psychological disorders, then we should expect physical force, which could possibly lead to serious harm or death. He says as much: “‘We are being forced into a position where we may have to go hands-on, physical force with him? And depending on the extent of his anger and outrage and circumstances occurring at that specific moment, this could end up being a fatal situation for my officer or for Mr. Guarino.'” SO LET’S NOT REQUIRE THE POLICE TO DO THIS KIND OF WORK!

    This, in part, is the argument for defunding the police. It does not mean “abolish” them, as Trump so dishonestly argues. Rather it means transferring resources to alternative responses to folks that can do the work of deescalation, etc., and then provide people like Guarino the care he needs. In short, it means mental health professionals with authority, not police. Not police, whose job is to confront, use force, and restrain, or make arrests (only if there is a crime).

    Lastly, it is absolutely ridiculous to think that JAIL is the best place for a man like Guarino, and that bail reform is the problem. We need a different place for folks like Guarino to be confined to when they pose a danger to society, one in which he gets the care he needs. Speaking selfishly for a moment, this is ALL of our best interest. When will we learn this? No one will be safer if this man is confined to jail. And he will likely suffer beyond the imagination of our normal minds if sent to jail. The folks at THE Anderson Center for Autism know this. Chief Sinagra knows this, and is arguing emphatically. The Judge knows this. So what are we going to do?

  2. Nejla Liias

    This article is misleading and dangerous. The fact that chief of police doesn’t realize that there is a difference in need and response to a person with mental illness and JAIL IS NOT THE PLACE is ignorant at best and dangerous at worst. In my opinion, he is using this only as an extremely bad example to make more waves about bail reform, which he is adamantly opposed to and takes every opportunity to highlight. There are many benefits to bail reform and these types of misleading articles and comments by people in power is unacceptable and misinformation, spreading perceptions about bail reform that are untrue. Details matter. I urge Hudson Valley One to review this article and review bail reform and talk about the different challenges faced by those with mental health issues as well as the reasons bail reform was put in place and the benefits it provides to the most vulnerable in our communities.

  3. Carol Nolan

    The police chief got one thing right when he said, “I don’t want to see him go to prison. He needs to go someplace where he can get help.” Otherwise his analysis of this complex and highly disturbing situation is flawed. The failure is not of bail reform but of our healthcare system.

  4. meyer rothberg

    Shameful that Chief Sinagra would use this case of a clearly psychiatrically ill person to advance his prejudiced position against bail reform.

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