Lawyers for the state Attorney General’s office are fighting to uphold last month’s controversial parole board decision to free three-time cop-killer Herman Bell — arguing that the widow of one of Bell’s NYPD victims doesn’t have legal standing to sue for a new parole hearing.
Bell, 70, was granted parole last month but remains held upstate in the maximum-security Shawangunk Correctional Facility, pending the outcome of a lawsuit backed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and filed by police widow Diane Piagentini.
Her husband, Officer Joseph Piagentini, was assassinated by Bell and two other Black Liberation Army thugs in a 1971 Harlem ambush. Also murdered was the cop’s partner, Officer Waverly Jones; Bell later pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a third cop’s BLA-assassination death in San Francisco.
Her suit argues that that the parole board members who voted to free Bell flouted procedure by failing to consider his original, remorseless sentencing statement, among other procedural flaws.
But at a hearing in Albany on Friday, lawyers with the AG’s bureau of litigation argued that case law denies Piagentini the legal right to ask for a do-over hearing. The right to such do-over requests are reserved for prisoners’ claims that they were wrongly denied parole, the state’s lawyers argued.
Judge Richard Koweek said he would reserve decision on whether Piagentini has legal standing to ask for a new parole hearing.
“I view standing as a significant issue in this case,” the judge said, reserving decision for now.
“Absurd,” PBA president Patrick Lynch said outside court. “Who else has more standing than the widow of a hero police officer, killed by these murdering mutts?”
The widow, who attended court with Lynch, said, “I’m here to see that justice is being done … that a new parole board will be put in place with new commissioners, and that Herman Bell will be kept in prison.”