Visits Village Board to answer questions
By Michael Turton
On Tuesday (Feb. 13), at a Cold Spring Village Board meeting, Putnam County District Attorney Robert Tendy answered questions from board members and the public about a range of topics. This is a condensed version of his remarks.
If you’re a victim of a crime, my office, the Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies won’t ask about your immigration status. We’re concerned with who’s victimizing you, finding them and dealing with them within the legal system. But, if you are victimizing someone and you get arrested, we will be concerned about your immigration status.
The biggest problem in the county and in the country is drug abuse. It’s a disease. There’s no shame in it. We’re way past that. We don’t get a big kick out of putting addicts in jail. That’s the old days. We want to help.
It’s not actually “synthetic”; it’s laced with acetones and poisons. It can create psychosis that can last for weeks.
You’re not supposed to smoke pot; it’s illegal in New York unless it’s for medicinal purposes. This is going to sound weird coming from a district attorney, but if you’re smoking marijuana, at least know what you’re smoking. There was a case several months ago where three kids had serious problems because they thought they were simply smoking marijuana.
Mayor Dave Merandy: About 20 percent of your prosecutions are DWI related. We’re focused on opioids, but I would think alcohol-related problems and deaths are as widespread. That point seems to be getting lost.
Tendy: You’re right. People with serious alcohol problems who have been arrested are being accepted into the Putnam County Drug Treatment Court more often than in the past. But it isn’t treatment but asset forfeiture that is a big part of our dealing with alcohol-related driving offenses. We do want you to get help, but if you’re driving drunk and it’s your second conviction, we’re going to take your car.
From the audience: What steps are you taking to stop drug dealers?
Tendy: We’re tough on them, but we can be tougher. There are two kinds of dealers: those who are in it for the profit and don’t care what they do to people; and “mules,” or addicts used by dealers to transport drugs. If you’re transporting for a seller, we’ll do everything we can to get you help.
I don’t want this to become political, but we have to do something about the drugs that come over the border from Mexico. Thousands of kilos a year are getting stopped but the amount getting through is ridiculous. If you want to change that, don’t talk about immigration, about people. Talk about doing something about border security to stop the flow of drugs.
Trustee Steve Voloto: How does a legal painkiller like fentanyl end up in a street drug like heroin? We know who’s manufacturing the fentanyl.
Tendy: A lot of it comes from China. It’s cheap and extremely profitable. It’s also extremely potent. Anybody who is lacing heroin with fentanyl should be jailed for a long time because they basically don’t care whether they will kill someone.
We’re not talking about humanitarians; we’re talking about people who are flooding our country with heroin. The demand is high. We’re the biggest purchaser in the world. It’s a social issue, and there are many theories as to why.
Suing the drug companies
From the audience: Can you update us on the lawsuit that Putnam County is pursuing against pharmaceutical companies over the marketing of opioids?
Tendy: It’s in the formative stages. A number of states have filed suits. They are not dissimilar to the lawsuits filed against cigarette manufacturers years ago.
In the early 1990s everyone was being told to put their kids on various drugs. Kids 4-, 5- and 6- years old were taking pills. They were told, this is going to help you get through school, help you to pay more attention. Doctors were overdiagnosing attention-deficit disorder. There was a lot of money being made.
The pharmaceutical companies pushed legal drugs into our kids and our society in the mid-2000s. It was the perfect storm. All this cheap heroin started coming in; everybody started taking prescription pain pills; and suddenly you had a generation of kids who were taught that this was OK. And their parents and school counselors were told that it was OK. And all of it came from the drug manufacturers.
From the audience: Is the goal of the suit to stem the tide of opioids?
The tide has already washed the beach away. The lawsuits are going to force a settlement, with the funds going to education programs, treatment facilities and to prevent people from becoming part of the problem.