As an appeals court considered whether to haul paroled cop-killer Herman Bell back to prison, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association released a radio commercial May 7 opposing such a release for anyone who murders a police officer.
“Allow me to tell you what life is like for our cop families,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in the spot. “Every day, our husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons are hoping and praying. They’re hoping there’s no knock at the door, praying they never hear those terrible words—‘You need to get to the hospital. We have a car waiting.'"
'Killed in Cold Blood’
“In May 1971, the families of Police Officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini heard those words,” he continued. “They heard that Waverly and Joe were never coming home, because a gang of terrorists assassinated them in cold blood. Nothing would bring our heroes back, but at least these families knew the killers were behind bars for life. Until now.
“The New York State Parole Board has already released cop-killer Herman Bell. His accomplice, Anthony Bottom, is up for parole next month. Help us fight for these families who have sacrificed so much for us.”
The third shooter, Albert Washington, died in prison.
The spot invited listeners to visit the PBA website, nycpba.org, and click on a letter opposing parole for those who murder cops.
Mr. Bell was released April 27 from the maximum-security Shawangunk Correctional Facility on April 28 after Albany Supreme Court Justice Richard Koweek ruled that Officer Piagentini’s widow, Diane, did not have legal standing to challenge the parole decision. She and the PBA appealed the decision to the Appellate Division, which accepted written arguments from both sides May 2. It is not clear when the appeals judges will rule.
The prisoner had been turned down for parole seven times, but a board in February voted 2-1 to grant it this time around. The board majority declared he was no longer a threat to society. It said he had finally expressed remorse for the killing of the officers and had a good disciplinary record in prison.
Ms. Piagentini and the PBA maintained that Mr. Bell continues to be dangerous and that he tailored his expression of remorse to deceive the parole board. They said he should never be released.
Her lawsuit cited several areas in which she said the parole board had erred, including ignoring records from his sentencing hearing at which one of his lawyers said that he would never be rehabilitated. But after ruling that she was not qualified to sue, Justice Koweek did not consider those issues.
Mr. Bell also pleaded guilty to involvement in a shotgun attack on a San Francisco police station shortly after the attack on Officers Piagentini and Jones. Sgt. John Young was killed in that assault.
“We are appalled by the misguided and illegal decision of a radical parole board to release the three-time convicted cop-killer Herman Bell,” Mr. Lynch said in a statement May 3. “This outrageous decision has resulted in a public outcry from all corners of our city to keep cop-killers in jail."
Hits Cuomo on Inaction
He continued, “The Governor and a host of elected officials have expressed their opposition to Bell’s release, and yet none of those responsible for the broken, unaccountable parole system lifted a finger to stop it.”
At a press conference the day Mr. Bell was released, the PBA called for reform of the state’s parole laws to make it harder to free cop-killers and allow victims’ representatives to challenge parole decisions.
The Republican-controlled State Senate on May 1 passed a number of proposals, including a life-without-parole sentence in the killing of a first-responder; a similar term for repeat violent felons; a requirement that the entire parole board, not just one member, hear from people speaking on behalf of victims; and a period of five years rather than the current two between parole hearings for violent criminals.
None of the bills would affect Mr. Bell’s situation. And they are not expected to pass the more-liberal, Democratic-controlled State Assembly.