Former Black Liberation Army terrorist and three-time cop-killer Herman Bell is eligible for parole, an Albany judge decided Friday, rejecting a police widow’s request for a do-over parole hearing.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard Koweek set 5 p.m. April 27 for Bell’s release from Shawangunk Correctional Facility in upstate Wallkill, NY.
Widow Diane Piagentini’s opposition had already been considered by Bell’s parole board, and so she lacked the legal right — or “standing” — to force the board to re-do the hearing, Koweek wrote.
The decision was met with derision and vows of an appeal by Piagentini and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which helped her file her lawsuit opposing parole.
“Not only have they compounded the pain and suffering we have experienced since my husband’s death, they have also put the safety of the public in jeopardy by releasing a vicious killer like Herman Bell,” Piagentini said of Koweek and the parole board.
PBA president Patrick Lynch said the ruling “will blow a gaping hole in our justice system, through which monsters like Herman Bell will continue to escape onto our streets.”
Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden, a retired NYPD cop, wondered “how this judge can put his head on a pillow tonight.”
“It is a disgrace,” Golden said of Koweek’s ruling.
“The governor, the parole commissioner and the parole panel did a great disgrace to this state to the Piagentini family and to the state. Herman Bell shot him 22 times while he begged for his life, begged for his wife and his two daughter. As they shot him, he begged.”
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb called the ruling, “a slap in the face to police officers who risk their lives protecting us from killers like Herman Bell.”
Sentenced to 25 years to life for assassinating a pair of patrolmen in a 1971 ambush shooting in Harlem, Bell had been granted parole in March.
The widow of one of Bell’s victims, Officer Joseph Piagentini, immediately filed a lawsuit requesting a new hearing.
The suit argued that the parole board failed to review minutes from Bell’s threatening and unrepentant sentencing statement, and also neglected to get input from victim family members opposed to parole.
In rejecting widow Diane Piagentini’s request that Bell remain imprisoned pending a new hearing, the judge wrote on Friday that the parole board had met a second time, on March 21, to review the sentencing minutes.
“They adhered to their prior decision,” the judge wrote.
The judge added that he himself reviewed Diane Piagentini’s victim impact statement and Bell’s sentencing remarks — and still found that the parole board had been within its discretion in voting to free Bell.
“It was not irrational,” the judge said of the parole board’s decision.
“Nor did it border on impropriety. Therefore, it must be upheld.”
Bell’s slated date of release from Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, NY, had originally been Tuesday, April 17. Diane Piagentini’s lawsuit had stayed that date pending today’s decision.
Bell was granted parole on his eighth try, and after 44 years in prison for joining with two other BLA thugs in luring NYPD officers Piagentini and Waverly Jones to a housing project with a phony 911 call, and then shooting them on the street from behind.
The BLA was targeting interracial “salt and pepper” patrol pairs; Jones, 33, who was black, died instantly and Piagentini, 28, who was white, writhed on a sidewalk, begging for his life, as he was tortured by 22 shots, including from his own service revolver.
While on the run months later, Bell joined in a BLA cop assassination in San Francisco; he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, maintaining he was just the getaway driver.
“I have so changed, that you would want me to be your neighbor, you would want me to be your friend,” Bell, 70, had told a trio of parole board members, according to minutes of his March 13 hearing obtained by The Post.
“I was impressionable. I was young. I was angry and full of aggressive energy,” he told the board.
“The person I was then, if that person was to come into this room, during this interview, I couldn’t recognize that person.”
Two out of the three board members agreed.
Since then, the parole board has also been flooded with more than 367,000 online letters protesting its decision.
Even Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he is personally opposed to the decision, though he has taken no action to override state parole officials.
“If I were on the parole board, I would not have made that decision,” Cuomo said at an unrelated New York City event Thursday morning. “The parole board is an independent board and I would not have made that decision.”
Some 1,000 names have been entered into a petition supporting Bell’s parole.
The names include faculty members from museums and college arts programs at East Coast colleges, including Columbia University, New York University, the City University of New York, and Parsons School of Design.