In May 1971, three members of the Black Liberation Army militant group, (Albert Washington, Anthony Bottom and Herman Bell), placed a 9-1-1 call for help in Harlem housing project. Two New York City policeman, Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini, responded to the call. Upon their arrival, they were intentionally ambushed by the three black men.
Officer Jones was shot and killed instantly. Piagentini was wounded multiple times. The three militants took Piagentini’s gun from him and as the officer laid there pleading for his life, they executed him with his own gun.
The three men fled the state. Later that year, Washington and Bottom, who assumed the name Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, were arrested and charged with the attempted murder of a San Francisco police officer. They were also charged in the murders of the two NYPD officers and extradited to New York, where they were convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Washington died in prison of cancer.
After 45-years in prison, Bell applied for parole. His parole application was opposed by the entire New York Police Department along with many locals and politicians.
However, the parole board announced that they were granting the now 70-year-old Herman Bell parole and that on April 17, 2018, he will be allowed to walk out of the Shawangunk Prison.
The decision of the parole board has caused a considerable amount of uproar and protests from the New York Police Department and many others, but their decision is hardest felt by Diane Piagentini, the widow of Officer Joseph Piagentini. She says that she was promised that none of the three who assassinated her husband would ever see the light of day.
She told the media:
“My daughters never got to know their father. He wasn’t there when they went to high school, father/daughter dances. They never got to know him.”
Patrick Lynch, who heads the NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, reacted to the news of Bell’s parole, saying:
“Young police officers say there’s a bond with the public that says if a mope kills me, you’ll take care of my family and they’ll stay behind bars forever, and their eyes were opened yesterday when word came down that this vermin will walk our streets. It’s disgraceful.”
Many are calling for the total removal of the parole board, which was recently shuffled around and those on the board were appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a flaming liberal Democrat. Cuomo says he disagrees with the board’s decision, but that his hands are tied and he cannot do anything to change it. He also added that anyone convicted of murdering a police officer should get life in prison, period.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) is outraged and spoke out about the decision, saying:
“What happened to these two police officers is despicable, it’s wrong.”
“This board should be taken apart.”
Golden also pointed out that earlier parole board who heard parole requests from Bell, wrote:
“…consider that the crime is so heinous that the release would undermine the respect for law.”
After this shocking news about the parole of Bell, many fear that the same parole board will also grant parole for Bell’s murdering accomplice Anthony Bottom, as he comes up for parole in 2019.
I have never approved of parole for anyone convicted of a crime for two reasons.
First is that parole undermines the entire judicial process. Too many criminals know that for first offenses, they will likely get out of jail in half the time because of parole, so the risk isn’t as great as it could be. However, if everyone had to serve the entire sentence they were given, it should make some re-consider before they commit a crime.
Secondly, I have heard about or seen far too many people that were victimized by someone who had been released from prison early on parole. Perhaps the most noteworthy case at the moment is the illegal who murdered Kate Steinle in San Francisco in 2015. He was released early. Had he still been serving his prison term, Steinle would still be alive and her father would not have to live with the memory of his daughter dying in his arms.
In the case of cop killers like Bell, Bottoms and Washington, they should have received a death penalty and been put to death, which not only serves the purpose of punishment, but also saves taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars that are spent keeping them alive in prison for years.