Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan told a New Hampshire audience in 2019, during his short-lived presidential bid, that “I would be for eliminating” bail nationwide — claiming the system was “inherently unfair.”
The little-noticed remark resurfaced as Ryan battles Republican JD Vance for the open Senate seat in Ohio, which could determine control of the upper chamber of Congress.
The race has turned increasingly nasty with fewer than four weeks to go before Election Day — with Ryan recently calling Vance a Donald Trump “ass kisser” and a “San Francisco fraud” while presenting himself as a centrist willing to stand up to the national Democratic Party.
“If Tim Ryan had his way, every violent criminal would be released back onto the street the same day they were arrested,” Vance told The Post Wednesday. “This idea is not just foolish, it’s dangerous to Ohio families and communities.”
“Tim’s radical plan to eliminate cash bail serves as a reminder to Ohioans that this election is about safety and security,” added Vance, who leads Ryan by just 1.4 percentage points in an average of polls collected by RealClearPolitics
Ryan endorsed ending bail requirements in response to a question posed by Jeanne Hruska, political director for the ACLU of New Hampshire, during a forum at the University of New Hampshire’s law school.
“We’re seeing states end cash bail, state by state. Would you support that nationally?” Hruska asked.
“Yeah,” Ryan responded. “I think the bail system is inherently unfair and what it does is it sets people down a spiral of not being able to go to work, not being able to take care of their kids, then you have adverse childhood experiences, and all of a sudden a parent is not at home.
“It’s not much different than what we talk about when we see these kids separated from their parents through the immigration situation we’re dealing with in the United States,” added Ryan, who has represented a district that includes the city of Youngstown for two decades.
“There’s a great article in the New York Times, I think it was, about adverse childhood experiences,” the lawmaker concluded. “Those traumatizing experiences for kids lead to mental health issues, physical health issues, obviously behavioral issues. So I would be for eliminating it.”
Ryan did not identify any public safety guardrails to ensure violent criminals remain detained before trial.
His answer contrasted with the congressman’s firm rejection of other ideas encouraged by Hruska and pro-civil liberties audience members.
For example, Ryan said at the same event that he doesn’t think prisoners should be able to vote while behind bars and that he opposes pardoning WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who faces criminal charges for allegedly working with whistleblower Chelsea Manning to leak classified information.
Although Ryan made the remark at a public event, it received little attention until now.
As of Wednesday, a three-year-old video of the event posted to YouTube by the law school had just 86 views. A clip of Ryan’s cash bail remark posted to Facebook by the New Hampshire ACLU had six likes. A web page published by Politico that tracked 2020 Democratic candidates’ views on hot-button issues said Ryan — who dropped out of the race in October 2019 — had stated no opinion on the issue of “cash bail reform.”
The idea of abolishing cash bail has long been championed by libertarians and leftists who pointed to examples of people spending long stretches behind bars awaiting trial on minor offenses — such as Kalief Browder, a 22-year-old who died by suicide in 2015 after spending nearly three years in jail on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a book bag.
Bail reform later became accepted by mainstream Democrats and New York adopted a major overhaul in 2019. Shortly afterward, jarring examples emerged of violent criminals being released promptly and then victimizing more people.
Although the New York law was tightened in 2020, judges in many high-profile recent cases have allowed suspects to go free without bail, with tragic effects. Last month, an alleged subway slasher killed a 43-year-old Brooklyn father on an L train after being released following a similar prior assault. Also last month, a madman who smashed up a Lower East Side McDonald’s with an ax was freed without bail.
The issue emerged in Ohio as well after the state’s top court ruled in April that prosecutors could no longer cite public safety when asking a judge to set bail amounts.
A proposed ballot initiative, Ohio Issue 1, would reverse that ruling and require courts to consider public safety when determining bail. Republicans are among the initiative’s top backers while some Democrats and the state ACLU oppose it.
Both Vance, 38, and Ryan, 49, have sought to appeal to Ohio’s historically swing-voting blue collar electorate, which in recent years has become increasingly Republican.
Jeff Simpson, president of the Columbus Fraternal Order of Police, told The Post that he believes Ryan is willing to adjust his policies on policing to match shifting political currents.
“This is yet another example of Tim Ryan putting criminals before Ohioans,” Simpson said, directing The Post to a June 2020 letter that Ryan sent to then-Attorney General Bill Barr contending that “police brutality and violence is now a leading cause of death among young men” — citing a study that said black men have a 1 in 1,000 risk of being killed by police.
“Tim Ryan is a man of his party. He jumped right on board with the anti-police movement with his party in an irresponsible and inflammatory manner. He has not walked back any of his comments,” Simpson said.
Ryan campaign spokespeople did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Post.
Supporters of state bail-reform proposals, including the Ohio chapter of the ACLU and the libertarian-conservative group Americans for Prosperity did not immediately respond to requests for comment.