State Trooper Christopher Baldner, who was jailed November 4 on a second-degree murder charge in connection with the death of 11-year-old Monica Goods after Balder allegedly intentionally rammed her family’s minivan off the road after a high-speed chase on the Thruway in the town of Ulster on Dec. 22, 2020, was set to be released Friday after State Supreme Court Justice Denise Hartman set his bail at $100,000. Justice Hartman’s ruling overturned the denial of bail that was imposed on Baldner by Ulster County Court Judge Bryan Rounds.
In denying bail November 4, Rounds said he believes Baldner did pose a significant flight risk and was not moved by an argument by the defendant’s attorney that Baldner turned himself in within 16 hours of the indictment. Rounds said remanding the defendant in custody was the least restrictive means of ensuring Baldner, who remains on the state police payroll, would appear in court.
But in a petition for a writ of habeus corpus before the State Supreme Court, Baldner’s attorney Stephen R. Coffey of Albany requested that “this Court exercise its authority to overturn the bail determination of the Ulster County Court for abuse of discretion…” The decision said that “it is ordered and adjudged that November 4 2021 mandate/commitment order, issued by Ulster County Court is vacated to the extent that it ordered that Mr. Baldner be held without bail…” Justice Hartman set cash bail at $100,000, or $300,000 insurance company bail bond or secured bail bond; or “$450,000 partially secured bail bond, secured by a deposit of a sum equaling 10% of the total amount of the undertaking…”
If Baldner makes bail, he has to report to the Ulster County Probation Department and submit to pretrial supervision, submit to drug and alcohon testing; “remain confined to his residence, except for visits to probation, his attorney, medical and mental health appointments, or court…”
He’ll also have to “wear an electronic monitoring bracelet;” give up any passports; agree to “waive the right to oppose extradition from any foreign jurisdiction” and “surrender any remaining firearms or rifles he posses
The writ was opposed by the Office of the Attorney Letitia James and Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa.
At the November 4 bail hearing, Assistant State Attorney General Jennifer Gashi made the case for no bail.
“The evidence, in this case, will overwhelmingly and unequivocally show that the defendant intentionally rammed his police vehicle into the vehicle he was pursuing on the night of December 22, 2020, not once but twice within a period of nine seconds,” Gashi said. “This intentional act of ramming by the police cruiser caused the Goods’ vehicle to lose control, flip over and cause an 11-year-old girl to die.” The assistant AG said Tristan Goods was driving Northbound on the Thruway near mile 92 that night when Baldner pulled him over for speeding. That’s when Baldner began arguing with Tristan Goods, Gashi said. After the argument, she said, was when Baldner sprayed pepper spray into the family minivan, affecting all the occupants, including two children back in the car.
The assistant AG said Goods was scared and fled the scene. Evidence taken from the event data recorders of both cars shows that the defendant pursued Goods at a speed of 130 mph. Speaking for the prosecution, she said the data shows that Goods never made an abrupt action or slammed on his brakes.
“The evidence from the cars will show this is an intentional ramming and the defendant instead of braking to avoid the collision accelerated 100 percent into the back of the Goods’ vehicle.”
Gashi said the police car first hit Goods’ vehicle in the rear at over 100 mph and then the second time caused the driver to lose control. According to reports the vehicle flipped over more than once and ended up on its roof.
At that same hearing November 4, Baldner’s defense attorney John Ingrassia sought to illustrate a different picture of what transpired that evening on Dec. 22, 2020.
He said after the Goods vehicle was stopped at 101 mph in a 65 mph zone, Baldner made repeated requests for the driver to identify himself and provide his license and registration.
“We do not believe the evidence will show there was instantaneous of his division issued pepper spray, but it was only utilized after these repeated requests were not adhered to by the operator,” Ingrassia said, adding that the spraying only took place after Baldner had advised Tristan Goods he was under arrest. That’s when Goods took off, Ingrassia said. He acknowledged there were two contacts between the vehicles but did not offer more details.
“As a result of that, Trooper Baldner realized he was under investigation,” Ingrassia said.
Baldner is next due in court on February 18, 2022.