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November 5, 2018

Slain Cops' Survivors Argue Against Parole

For 1980, 1982 Murders

By Mark Toor

Two more families of city Police Officers who were murdered nearly 40 years ago delivered victim-impact statements to parole boards Nov. 2, hoping to keep the killers behind bars.

Officer Robert Sorrentino, 35, of the 101st Precinct in Queens was shot and killed April 10, 1980 while chasing five suspects who had just robbed a social club in Far Rockaway.

Slain Off-Duty

Officer James Whittington, 42, died Oct. 30, 1982. He was off-duty, getting a haircut in a Brooklyn barber shop, when a man with a gun on the street outside started an argument with a woman. Officer Whittington tried to arrest him, but he fled. The officer chased him in his car and caught up with him. The man wrested away the officer’s gun and killed him.

Suspects were arrested in both cases, convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life. That was the most-severe penalty available during the 23-year period between the end of the death penalty here in 1972 and the legislative passage in 1995 of life without parole, which is now the usual sentence for cop-killers. 

Now, Russell Carroll, a killer of Officer Sorrentino, and Mitchell Martin, who killed Officer Whittington, are up for parole.

They are among the men who killed 59 officers during that 23-year period who are beginning to come up for parole. New guidelines instituted by Governor Cuomo, which de-emphasize the seriousness of the original crime in favor of signs of rehabilitation and remorse, make the release of such men much more likely, says the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

Don’t Let Them Out

The PBA and the families of the slain cops believe cop-killers should never be released. But two have already been granted parole, and several more are under consideration.

Mr. Carroll was on parole when Officer Sorrentino was killed, and Mr. Martin was on probation, said Patrick J. Lynch, president of the PBA.

He said that after Officer Whittington fell to the ground from the bullet fired by Mr. Martin, “this vicious miscreant stood over the hero cop and fired another round at the already-wounded officer. He then ran like the rat that he was and is.  The decision to release him on probation cost a hero cop his life and condemned his loved ones to a life of loss and despair.”

Of Officer Sorrentino, Mr. Lynch said, “Although not the shooter, Russell Carroll, who was on parole for the armed robbery of a defenseless woman, was later arrested and convicted for his role in the Sorrentino murder.  Had it been an option at the time, the judge noted, he would have sentenced Sorrentino’s killers to death.”

Loss ‘Unbearable’

“The hurt, the loss and the longing is constant, never-ending and nearly unbearable,” said Officer Whittington’s daughter, Nicole Denby.

Mr. Martin had “an extensive criminal record going back to the seventies,” she said, adding that giving him probation was “a clear mistake.”

 She continued, “I will be telling this parole board that they must not compound the fatal mistake made by the system years ago by granting this cold-blooded, unremorseful cop-killer parole.”

Edna Doyle, sister of Police Officer Sorrentino, said, “Our family is serving a sentence of life without my brother, from which there is no parole.  For many, the shock of the crime is lost with the passage of time, but not for the victim’s family.  The pain of that loss is as sharp and devastating today as it was on the day that Bobby died.  We get no parole from that pain which is with us every day of our lives.”