The State Troopers PBA is thankful and relieved the New York State Parole Board has denied a parole release for Larry Comfort, a convicted drug dealer who was with his brother when his brother shot and killed New York State Police Investigator Robert Van Hall on Dec. 5, 1980.
State Troopers PBA members have been lobbying against the parole release of Larry Comfort through letters to the parole board. The PBA lauds the parole board’s decision, which sends a strong message that violent offenses against police officers will not be tolerated.
Below is an article published in the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper about the parole denial.
By LARRY WILSON
Star-Gazette Corning Bureau
December 15, 2005
CORNING – Convicted cocaine dealer Larry J. Comfort of Corning will spend at least two more years in prison.
Carol Claren-Weaver of the New York State Division of Parole said the decision was issued Wednesday by parole Commissioner Edward R. Mevec.
"Parole is again denied due to the seriousness of your crimes …," Mevec wrote.
Comfort is serving a 21-years-to-life sentence for first-degree criminal sale of cocaine. He was originally convicted of second-degree murder in the death of undercover state police Investigator Robert Van Hall on Dec. 5, 1980, in Corning.
That conviction was overturned in 1985 by a judge who ruled that the fatal shot was fired by Comfort’s older brother, Joseph Comfort.
Parole commissioners Ileana Rodriguez and Vernon C. Manley concurred in Mevec’s decision.
"You have programmed well and also have a good disciplinary record," Mevec wrote of Comfort. "Nevertheless, discretionary release on parole shall not be granted merely as a reward for good conduct or efficient performance of duties while confined."
Mevec pointed to Comfort’s "long-standing history of drug abuse and drug dealing" and his "escape from the local jail" while the felony drug charge was pending.
Comfort has been eligible for parole consideration since 2002. He was denied parole in December 2003 and in April 2005. The April hearing was held after he challenged the 2003 decision in court.
Joseph Comfort, 58, is serving 33 years to life in prison in Van Hall’s killing and is not eligible for parole consideration until 2014. He is being held in the Auburn Correctional Facility.
Larry Comfort’s latest parole hearing was held at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Walkill, where he has been held since 1982.
Parole officials said last April that Comfort has expressed "obvious remorse" for his crimes.
Van Hall’s partner, William Gorenflo, was seriously wounded in the exchange of gunfire on East Market Street that killed the investigator.
A statewide organization representing state police officers has campaigned against Comfort’s release.