New York Daily News

January 6, 2004

PBA Battles Parole for 2

Harlem rally today targets cop killers

JOE MAHONEY ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF.

Police union leaders are vowing to fight the possible parole of two former Black Liberation Army members convicted of killing a pair of cops outside a Harlem housing project in 1971.

Parole consideration for Herman Bell, 55, and Anthony Bottom, 52, comes just months after the controversial parole of Kathy Boudin in September. She was freed after serving nearly 22 years for a Rockland County heist that left two police officers and a security guard dead.

"These two cop killers have been called political prisoners, which is just patently absurd," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association spokesman Al O'Leary.

Police groups have gathered the signatures of 5,000 New Yorkers opposed to parole for the two, he added.

Today, family members of the slain cops and PBA leaders will hold a rally outside the 32nd Precinct stationhouse in Harlem to urge the Parole Board not to release Bell and Bottom.

Among those slated to attend is police widow Diane Piagentini, who raised two daughters by herself after her 28-year-old husband, Joseph, was executed in the street.

Bell, Bottom and Albert Washington, who died in prison two years ago, ambushed and killed Piagentini and Officer Waverly Jones in May 1971, after the cops answered a domestic-violence complaint.

Piagentini briefly survived despite being hit by more than a dozen bullets. Although witnesses said he pleaded for mercy, Bell snatched the cop's gun and fired the fatal shots.

City Councilman Charles Barron, who has called Bottom and Bell political prisoners, blasted the PBA yesterday when told the group was stepping up pressure on the Parole Board.

"The PBA should be ashamed of themselves for fighting this when we are talking about model inmates who are certainly not dangers to society," the Brooklyn Democrat said.

Bell comes up for parole consideration on Feb. 9, and Bottom's hearing is scheduled for July, parole officials said.

While relatives and friends of crime victims aren't allowed to attend parole hearings in New York, commissioners do consider their viewpoints, state officials said.

"The Parole Board is interested in receiving and hearing as much information as we can," said board spokesman Tom Grant.