MONROE COUNTY, NY – A man from New York State accused of a brutal hatchet murder in July was released from custody for a separate offence before he could be charged due to a controversial new parole reform law signed recently by new State Governor Kathy Hochul, according to information released by authorities.
Joseph Rivera, 21, was charged with second-degree murder after he allegedly attacked Heather Majors, 47, in Rochester on July 10 with a hatchet, reportedly striking her over 30 times; Majors succumbed to her wounds two days later, police say.
Rivera – who was on parole at the time – was singled out as a suspect in the heinous murder and was arrested for allegedly violating the terms of his parole on July 21; Rivera was not scheduled to be released from jail until the middle of December due to the alleged parole violation during which time Monroe County prosecutors were planning on filing murder charges against him while in custody.
However, Hochul’s newly-signed “Less Is More Act” instead allowed Rivera to be released from jail Tuesday of this week instead of in December, preventing prosecutors from charging him with Majors’ killing, according to officials.
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The “Less Is More Act,” Hochul said, is a way to prevent criminals who have been recently released from prison to be sent back to jail for “minor” violations of their parole, such as being tardy for meetings with their parole officer or testing positive for drug or alcohol use, in addition to granting time off the length of parole for good behavior and increasing the speed of judicial reviews of parole violations.
“Our fellow New Yorkers on parole deserve to reenter society with our support and respect,” Hochul said via a statement after signing the bill into law. “Reincarcerating parolees for technical violations traps them and doesn’t help our communities.”
Jessica Majors, the sister of the murder victim, said that Hochul’s “Less Is More Act” allowed an alleged murderer back on the streets and unnecessarily endangered the public.
“He shouldn’t have been released,” she said. “He killed my sister like an animal. He’s 21 years old, and if he could be that brutal, commit that brutal of a crime at 21, he doesn’t need to be out.”
Rivera was apprehended by police just 10 hours after Hochul’s law sprung him from jail allowing prosecutors to formally charge him with second-degree murder, to which he pleaded not guilty. He is currently being held at Monroe County Jail without bail.