February 14, 2007

Angst over publicity in Bell case

BY ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO Three cops indicted in the Sean Bell case had a brief court appearance yesterday. but much of the attention outside the Kew Gardens courthouse centered on whether the officers can get a fair trial in Queens. Supporters of the three defendants - Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper - said the drumbeat of publicity about the case may affect the pool of potential jurors in such a way that a change of venue for the case can't be ruled out. Meanwhile, attorneys for the Bell family denounced stories that he was a drug dealer. "We would simply ask that the negative propaganda and campaign by the Police Department, by the PBA against Sean Bell's memory stop, stop," said Peter St. George Davis, who represents Bell's parents. At yesterday's hearing, defense attorneys requested that prosecutors turn over forensic reports. Judge Arthur Cooperman set a new court date for May 14. The officers are accused of being part of a group of cops who fired 50 shots in a Nov. 25, 2006, confrontation with an unarmed Bell, 23, and his friends outside the Kalua Cabaret strip club in Jamaica. Oliver and Isnora are charged with felony manslaughter and assault, while Cooper is charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. "What is happening now is the the stories going out in the street are there to affect a possible jury pool," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch outside the courtroom. "That should not be allowed to happen." Staff writer Daniel Massey contributed to this story.