Cop killer Herman Bell’s upcoming date with freedom has been put on hold, officials said Thursday.
A judge in Albany has ordered the former Black Liberation Army member’s upcoming release from prison stopped until a new lawsuit from one of his victim’s widows can be reviewed.
Bell has been imprisoned for 39 years, after he and two accomplices, was convicted of assassinating NYPD Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones in 1971. He was expected to be released on April 17. Bell turned 70 in prison earlier this year.
On April 13, a hearing on the lawsuit filed by Piagentini’s widow will be held.
She claims the state Parole Board failed to follow procedural law and executive law when it ordered Bell’s release.
The board didn’t review the minutes from when Bell was sentenced in 1979, which is required by law before parole can be granted, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association members said.
“This parole board blew the call by making a decision to release this cold-blooded assassin without having considered all of the facts as the law requires,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said Thursday.
Piagentini’s widow Diane said that the sentencing minutes show that “the judge and prosecutor at his trial made it clear that he should never get out of prison.”
After the hearing, a judge will decide whether to dismiss the case or allow it to continue. If it’s dismissed, Bell’s stay in prison will only be prolonged by a few weeks.
Bell’s attorney Robert Boyle said lawsuits like the one filed by the PBA are almost always dismissed.
“They know they don’t have a legal leg to stand on,” Boyle said. “In addition to being wrong on the substantive law, the PBA has no legal standing to bring the case to a court.”
State officials said that when the parole board decided to free Bell in early March, they had read a letter from the sentencing judge, but not the minutes, which were read after the fact.
Still, the nearly 40-year-old transcript did not sway the board, which issued an amended decision on March 20 to include that the minutes were reviewed, Boyle said.