WILTON -- An 18-year-old Malta man was arrested shortly after midnight Friday for allegedly threatening to bring a gun to Maple Avenue Middle School in Greenfield to harm students, the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday.
Michael L. Ross was charged with making a terroristic threat, a felony, and arraigned in Wilton Town Court. Ross was released “due to new bail reform laws” passed last year, according to the sheriff’s department.
Ross, who is not a student in the school district, allegedly posted a video to an Instagram chat in which he threatened to take a gun to Maple Avenue Middle School, the only middle school in the Saratoga Springs district, and hurt students there, according to authorities. He directed the threat at a group of Maple Avenue students on social media sometime Thursday night, said Capt. Jeff Brown of the sheriff's department.
In a message sent to parents Friday morning, Saratoga Springs School District officials said they were cooperating with the sheriff’s department to investigate the threat. The message said that police “deemed that there is no immediate threat to our students or staff” and promised that students and parents would be welcomed back to school after a two-week winter break with an increased police presence.
“The district has requested additional police presence on Monday to help alleviate any concerns,” the district wrote in the message. “The safety of our students and staff continues to be our top priority.”
The arrest touched on two political flashpoints: the long-roiling local debate in Saratoga over whether to arm district grounds monitors and an emerging hot button over new state bail laws that remove cash bail from all but a handful of violent felonies.
State Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, on Friday said the arrest and the suspect's release highlighted concerns he has with the way the state's new bail rules work; Tedisco said releasing the alleged criminals without giving local police and judges the discretion to hold someone based on a risk assessment puts communities at risk.
Tedisco teamed up with Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara of Rotterdam, to propose a bill that would allow courts to make a risk assessment based on a defendant's prior convictions, a failure to make a court appearance or a subsequent arrest while awaiting a trial.
"They are forcing law enforcement and the judiciary to turn its back on many of the abilities they have to protect the public," Tedisco said, arguing the new law bars judges from preventing someone they may deem a threat from being released. "The professionals in law enforcement are begging for us to give them this discretion."
Police agencies around the region have noted in recent press releases and statements that alleged criminals, including someone arrested on manslaughter in Albany County this week after allegedly choking a woman, were being released under the new bail laws. Some law enforcement leaders have contended the new law will make their work protecting communities more difficult.
The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office in November posted a list of the crimes for which defendants could no longer be held on bail once the new law took effect Jan. 1. The crimes listed included making a terroristic threat, the charge usually brought against young people who make violent threats against schools, and criminal possession of a gun on school grounds.
“Law enforcement and judges will have no option but to set these people free back into our communities within hours of committing their crimes,” the sheriff’s office wrote in the November post. “We take great pride in the safety of our communities which we work diligently to protect every day. This fact will not change come January 1st but there is little doubt that these new laws will have a negative impact on public safety making our job that much harder.”