NYPD commissioner rips impending release of cop killer
Commissioner James O’Neil said the state's Parole Board “failed grievously” by allowing Herman Bell to go free
By Rocco Parascandola and Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — The city’s top cop fired off a scathing letter to Gov. Cuomo on the state’s Parole Board’s decision to free cop killer Herman Bell, claiming the board “failed grievously” by allowing the 70-year-old to go free.
“The message to law enforcement officers in New York, San Francisco, and throughout our country is painfully clear: Your sacrifices can and will be forgotten,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill wrote on Friday. “Herman Bell should remain in prison for the rest of his life. His mind has not changed, his heart has not opened, and his debt has not nearly been repaid.”
O’Neill’s letter came the same day that a judge tossed a lawsuit demanding a new hearing for Bell, claiming that the Parole Board didn’t follow mandated protocols when rendering their decision to free him after nearly four decades.
Bell is scheduled to be set free this week.
He, along with Anthony Bottom and Albert Washington, were convicted of executing Police Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones after luring them to the Colonial Park Houses — now the Rangel Houses — on W. 159th St. with a bogus 911 call on May 21, 1971.
Jones was shot in the head and died instantly, but the three suspects took their time with Piagentini — shooting him 22 times.
Bell only recently began showing remorse for his actions, something O’Neill believes was just a ruse to snow the board.
“He was sufficiently versed in what the Parole Board wanted to hear, and curtailed his speechmaking and professed remorse with less equivocation,” O’Neill wrote. “But what has been characterized as a change of heart is merely a change of strategy.”
O’Neill urged Cuomo to demand the parole board reconsider their “unconscionable determination.”
Cuomo said that he, too, disagreed with the parole board’s decision — but his hands are tied since the board is an independent body and not under his control.
“The Parole Board is an independent board but I would not have made that decision,” he told reporters Thursday.
Bell’s release was held back a week as Albany Judge Richard Koweek could could rule on the suit filed by Diane Piagentini, the widow of the slain officer, with the help of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, claiming the parole board did not review the sentencing minutes of the 1979 conviction and demanded a new parole hearing.
State officials admitted the parole board reviewed the minutes after making its decision, but filed an amended decision, claiming that the minutes didn’t change their finding.
The PBA also dumped more than 367,000 online letters on the state Board of Parole opposing Bell’s release.
On Friday, Koweek determined that Officer Piagentini’s widow “didn’t have standing” to challenge the parole board’s decision.
The PBA plans to appeal the ruling before Bell is set free.
“If (this) decision is allowed to stand, it will blow a gaping hole in our justice system, through which monsters like Herman Bell will continue to escape onto our streets,” Lynch said.
©2018 New York Daily News