une 16, 2008 -- ALBANY - The Paterson administration has rushed to court to delay a ruling that could force it to spring hundreds of murderers, robbers and other thugs - and end parole for thousands more, The Post has learned.
The violent felons were ordered freed by the Court of Appeals on April 29 on grounds that, absent-mindedly or unwittingly, judges failed to tell them they would have to spend up to five years on parole supervision after their prison terms expired.
Now, Gov. Paterson, a Democrat, has asked an Albany judge for permission to keep the convicts behind bars or under supervision as it scrambles to set up thousands of new sentencing hearings.
"The impact on public safety could be irreparably severe," Division of Correctional Services attorney Anthony J. Annucci argued in the June 4 court filing.
Paterson's legal challenge came too late for Kyung-Sook Woo, 62, who was killed May 16 in a robbery at her Brooklyn dry-cleaning store.
The suspect, ex-con Jamal Winter, 22, had been freed from Rikers Island weeks earlier after his postrelease supervision order was thrown out, according to court papers.
Some 546 violent felons, including 331 from New York City, are in line for similar releases. Dozens have filed petitions demanding immediate release.
Parole officials fear they could also lose track of as many as 18,000 violent felons now under their watch while new sentencing hearings are set up.
The agencies want an injunction to delay any releases for 90 days. A ruling could come in Albany as soon as this week.
The state has no right to hold ex-cons who have served their full sentences, said Legal Aid attorney Elon Harpaz of Brooklyn.
"There is no - zero - au thority to hold anybody in custody today for violating or allegedly violating a period of post-release supervision that did not lawfully exist," Harpaz said.
Senate Republicans say they hope to introduce emergency legislation this week that would clarify the law and give Paterson the authority to hold violent felons slated for release. But only five days remain in the legislative session.
"Certainly, we're racing the clock," said Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio (R-Seneca), who leads the Senate's Crime and Corrections Committee. "But it appears that this loophole may put dangerous criminals out on the streets, and that's something that we in the Senate will not tolerate."