In a last-gasp attempt, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is calling on the State Parole Board to delay the scheduled April 17 release of cop killer Herman Bell, citing the board’s failure “to obtain and consider” the sentencing minutes in his trial.
Those minutes, according to the PBA, include the comments of the prosecutor in the case and the judge who sentenced Bell that if the death penalty were in effect when the killing occurred in 1971, he should receive it. The minutes also include a statement by a defense attorney that Bell was “beyond redemption and can never be rehabilitated.”
Bell and Anthony Bottom, who is up for parole consideration in June, were members of the Black Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panther Party. The two, and a third man who died in prison, shot and killed NYPD Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones on May 21, 1971, in Washington Heights, during another period of national turmoil between the police and black groups.
The killers stole Jones’ weapon, which BLA members used three months later to shoot and kill San Francisco Sgt. John Victor Young. Law-enforcement fraternal orders say the BLA was responsible for the deaths of 10 officers around the country — including NYPD Officers Gregory Foster and Rocco Laurie, who were gunned down in the East Village in 1972.
In 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo altered parole board guidelines to include an applicant’s behavior while in prison and “to weigh any demonstrated growth and maturing since the time of the offense when considering individuals serving a maximum life sentence for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.”
Bell, who is 70, was 23 when he and Bottom shot and killed Jones and Piagentini.
After denying for four decades that he was involved in the shootings, Bell admitted his involvement in 2014. At his parole hearing last month, he said: “There was nothing political about the act, as much as I thought at the time. It was murder and horribly wrong.” The parole board considered the statement a sign of maturation.
Cuomo has said he opposes Bell’s release. Mayor Bill de Blasio was more forceful, saying, “Murdering a police officer in cold blood is a crime beyond the frontiers of rehabilitation or redemption.”
Jones was shot in the head. And Piagentini was shot 22 times, despite pleading for his life as a father of two small children.