Councilman Ulrich said the decision to set Bell free “sets a despicable and dangerous precedent.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
Herman Bell, one of three radicals who admitted to gunning down two City cops near a Harlem housing project in May 1971, has been granted parole by the State Parole Board.
Police Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones were lured to their demise, ambushed and shot multiple times in the back. Bell, Anthony Bottom, and Albert Washington, proud members of the Black Liberation Army, were convicted, and each received 25-to-life prison sentences.
Prior to last week’s ruling, Bell tried for early release seven times, and was denied each occasion. He is set to be freed on April 17.
The board, and by extension Gov. Andrew Cuomo, were roundly ripped by law enforcement and elected officials.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said that Cuomo “and his handpicked Parole Board should be ashamed they let convicted cop-killer Herman Bell out of prison. Each and every day, our brave men and women in blue walk with a target on their back, risking their lives to protect our city. The decision to release Herman Bell is not only an insult to New York’s Finest—it sets a despicable and dangerous precedent.”
Diane Piagentini, Joseph’s widow, said that her family is “angered and sickened that this horrible person, who was devoid of any human compassion or empathy when he continued to shoot my already wounded husband, Joseph, while he pleaded for his life for the sake of his family, will now be free to walk out of prison. My family and I believe that the members of parole board who made this horrible decision have not only betrayed the trust of all the line of duty police families, but have also failed in their duty to protect the citizens of this state. They should be fired and should never be allowed to sit in judgment again. The message being sent devalues the life of my brave husband who was taken from his two daughters and for whom there is no parole. How can we ask our police officers to risk their lives to protect society when society fails to appropriately punish their animalistic killers?”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) this week called for the approval of legislation he introduced in January 2017 that ensures that those who kill law enforcement officials spend their lives in prison with no possibility of parole.
“While those who take the lives of police officers are supposed to be sentenced to life without parole in New York’s prison system, a loophole in the law makes it possible that these cold-blooded killers could wind up back on the streets in as little as 20 years,” Addabbo, an attorney, noted. “When Bell was convicted, for example, it was on a charge of murder in the first degree, which carries a minimum penalty of 20 to 25 years in prison. Under my bill, this loophole in State law would be closed, and the specific crime of murdering a police officer would carry life in prison without parole as the one and only mandatory sentence.”
Addabbo’s proposed measure is currently in the Senate Codes Committee.