Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The parole legislation press conference: Extra, blog-only details

State Rep. Mike Vereb announced at a press conference today that he had introduced legislation that would give crime victims and their families the right to speak directly with state probation and parole board members before parole decisions are granted. Here are a few extra quotes that did not make it into the story.

The parole legislation press conference: Extra, blog-only details

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My story about a press conference held today in Norristown by State Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery) to announce parole legislation, will be in Thursday's newspaper and online at philly.com. The proposal would clear up conflicting provisions of state law and gives crime victims or their families the right to speak directly to Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole members before a decision is made to grant parole.

The bill flows from the January controvery surrounding former Univeristy of Pennsylvania professor Rafael Robb's imminent release after serving a minimum of his five-10 year sentence for killing his wife, Ellen Gregory Robb. Public outcry and a campaign by the victim's family and elected officials helped spur the board to reverse its decision and keep Rafael Robb behind bars.

There were some quotations and observations that didn't get into my story, and I thought I'd share them here.

Not surprisingly, Ellen Gregory Robb's death in 2006 still is very raw to her brothers Art and Gary. Gary was at today's news conference. As he had done before, he choked up a number of times when talking about his sister and his family's gratitude for the support they had gotten on making families' voices heard.

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane, also at the news conference, said Gary reminded her of her own brothers in this way: "He never lets the voice of his sister be quieted."

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman had an observation about how government systems do and don't work: "We all know what is right and the way systems should work, but it is often tragedy that befalls us that causes us to go forward, that propels us to do the right thing as a system and that is exactly what has happened here."

And Vereb who may be getting a reputation for saying lines that could come out of an action-adventure movie. In January, when the board rescinded its decision to parole Robb, Vereb said, "My message to Mr. Robb is that 'this is the captain speaking, and your flight to freedom has been canceled.'"

Today, Vereb talked about the news coverage of the parole controversy and had another message for Robb -- which produced a humorous exchange between Vereb and Ferman.

At the end of the press conference, Vereb said, "All of your good work of the press has given Mr. Robb some great reading in prison. I want Mr. Robb to also know that his manipulation is over and we’re going to have this bill signed into law. And he’s going to be the first one to have their victims appear in front of this board if we have anything to do with it. We hope to give him good reading and we hope to have this legislation signed into law as special dedication not only to Ellen Gregory Robb, but to all of our victims in Pennsylvania to give them that voice."

At that point, he turned toward Ferman and said, "That was safe, wasn’t it?"

“I wasn’t sure where you were going," Ferman said amid laughter. "I might have cleared my throat." Back at my office in the Upper Merion Inquirer printing plant, I played back my recording of the press conference and, sure enough, just after Vereb talked about news coverage giving Robb good prison reading, Ferman did, indeed, discreetly clear her throat. It didn't stop Vereb.

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Montco Memo, a blog written by Inquirer staffers Carolyn Davis and Jessica Parks, covers police and courts, issues and community news in Montgomery County.

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