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.
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.”