A temporary restraining order was issued against the parole release of a man convicted of killing two police officers in 1971, after the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association filed a suit in state court.
The suit, filed Wednesday on behalf of the officer’s widow, Diane Piagentini, of Deer Park in Long Island, argued that the New York State Board of Parole didn’t consider the words and intent of the sentencing judge or district attorney before granting Herman Bell his release from prison.
“There are some crimes so heinous that those who commit them forever forfeit their right to freedom,” Piagentini, the widow of slain Officer Joseph Piagentini, said in a statement. “The judge and prosecutor at his trial made it clear that he should never get out of prison.”
Bell was sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison after he was convicted of the murder of Piagentini and Officer Waverly Jones in Harlem in May 1971. Bell, along with two others, shot the officers as they responded to a fake call for help, according to the PBA.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said Jones was shot in the head, and then Piagentini was shot 22 times, including with his own service revolver as he begged for his life.
Bell was a member of the Black Liberation Army at the time of the shooting. Bell also served a concurrent sentence after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the August 1971 killing of Sgt. John Young in San Francisco.
While the parole board has called his crime “one of the most supreme assaults on society,” they granted him release, factoring in his age, personal growth and remorse.
He was set to be released as early as April 17.
In her statement, Piagentini said Bell denied the crime for decades and he “should suffer the torment of knowing that he will spend the rest of his natural life in prison for that crime, just as our family has forever been denied the blessing . . . of having Joe with us.”
Last month, O’Neill called the Parole Board’s decision “indefensible” and added that Bell “has never expressed genuine remorse.”
Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, also convicted of the shootings and then known as Anthony Bottom, will come up for parole in June, according to the PBA. The third man convicted of the murders, Albert “Nuh” Washington, died while incarcerated at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility in April 2000.
The temporary restraining order granted against Bell’s release is pending the outcome of a case expected to be heard in Albany on April 13, according to the PBA.
Bell’s attorney, Robert Boyle, said the temporary restraining order was “granted without hearing from the other side.
“The lawsuit is frivolous,” he added. “The parole board considered everything that they were required to consider and issued their decision granting parole in full compliance of the law.”