Officers in Sean Bell case acquitted

Standard

Hat Tip: By Michael Wilson, NY Times

Three detectives were found not guilty Friday on all charges in the shooting death of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets outside a club in Jamaica, Queens, in November 2006. The verdict prompted calls for calm from the mayor, angry promises of protests by those speaking for the Bell family and expressions of relief by the detectives.

Detective Michael Oliver, who fired 31 bullets the night of the shooting and faced manslaughter charges, said Justice Arthur J. Cooperman had made a “fair and just decision.”

Justice Cooperman delivered the verdict in State Supreme Court at 9 a.m. Giving his reasoning, he said many of the prosecution’s witnesses, including Mr. Bell’s friends and the two wounded victims, were simply not believable. “At times, the testimony of those witnesses just didn’t make sense,” the judge said.

Several supporters of Mr. Bell stormed out of the courtroom, and a few small scuffles followed outside the courthouse. By midafternoon, there were no suggestions of any broader unrest around the city. Mr. Bell’s family and fiancée left without making any comments and drove to visit his grave at the Nassau Knolls Cemetery and Memorial Park in Port Washington.

The verdict comes 17 months to the day since the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Mr. Bell, 23, and his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, outside the Club Kalua in Jamaica, Queens, hours before Mr. Bell was to be married.

It was delivered in a packed courtroom. Mr. Bell’s family sat silently as Justice Cooperman spoke from the bench. Behind them, a woman was heard to ask, “Did he just say, ‘Not guilty?’ ” Detective Oliver and the two other defendants, Detectives Gescard F. Isnora and Marc Cooper, were escorted out a side doorway as court adjourned.

The acquittals do not necessarily mean the officers’ legal battles are over. Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the three men could still face disciplinary action from the Police Department, but that he had been asked to wait on any internal measures until the United States attorney’s office determines whether or not it would pursue federal charges against them.

The seven-week trial, which ended on April 14, was heard by Justice Cooperman after the defendants waived their right to a jury, a strategy some lawyers called risky at the time. But it clearly paid off.

Before rendering his verdict, Justice Cooperman ran through a narrative of the chilly November evening when Mr. Bell died, and concluded “the police response with respect to each defendant was not found to be criminal.”

“The people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that each defendant was not justified in shooting, the judge said, quickly adding that the men were not guilty of all of the eight counts, five felonies and three misdemeanors against them.

Roughly 30 court officers stood by, around the courtroom and in the aisles. At one point as he read, Justice Cooperman paused to insist that a crying baby be taken from the courtroom. Immediately a young woman who appeared to be among the Bell contingent got up and left with a baby.

The Rev. Al Sharpton accompanied Bell family members to the cemetery, and said later that they will join him on Saturday at a rally protesting the verdict. He said he had spoken to the governor and the mayor, and that he believed a federal civil rights prosecution of the officers would be appropriate.

“This verdict is one round down, but the fight is far from over,” Mr. Sharpton said.

He promised protests “to demonstrate to the federal government that New Yorkers will not take this abortion of justice lying down.” He even raised the possibility of taking protests directly to Justice Cooperman’s home.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called for calm. “There are no winners in a trial like this,” he said. “An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father and a mother and a father lost their son.”

The mayor continued: “Judge Cooperman’s responsibility, however, was to decide the case based on the evidence presented in the courtroom. America is a nation of laws, and though not everyone will agree with the verdicts and opinions issued by the courts, we accept their authority.”

He added: “There will be opportunities for peaceful dissent and potentially for further legal recourse — those are the rights we enjoy in a democratic nation. We don’t expect violence or law-breaking, nor is there any place for it.”

A subdued Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, whose office prosecuted the case, said at a news conference: “Judge Cooperman discharged his responsibilities fairly and consciously under the law. I accept his verdict, and I urge all fair-minded individuals in this city to do the same.”

Commissioner Kelly, speaking in Brooklyn, would not comment on the verdict itself. But he did say that while there were no reports of unrest in response to the acquittals, the Police Department was ready should it occur.

“We have prepared, we have done some drills and some practice with appropriate units and personnel if there is any violence, but again, we don’t anticipate violence,” Mr. Kelly said. “There have been no problems. Obviously there will be some people who are disappointed with the verdict. We understand that.”

Detectives Isnora and Oliver had faced the most charges: first- and second-degree manslaughter, with a possible sentence of 25 years in prison; felony assault, first and second degree; and a misdemeanor, reckless endangerment, with a possible one-year sentence. Detective Oliver also faced a second count of first-degree assault. Detective Cooper was charged only with two counts of reckless endangerment.

All three of the detectives, none of whom took the stand during the trial, spoke at the offices of their union on Friday afternoon. “I’ve just started my life back,” Detective Cooper said.

During the 26 days of testimony, the prosecution sought to show, with an array of 50 witnesses, that the shooting was the act of a frightened group of disorganized police officers who began their shift that night hoping to arrest a prostitute or two and, in suspecting Mr. Bell and his friends of possessing a gun, quickly got in over their heads.

“We ask police to risk their lives to protect ours,” said an assistant district attorney, Charles A. Testagrossa, in his closing arguments. “Not to risk our lives to protect their own.”

The defense, through weeks of often heated cross-examinations, their own witnesses and the words of the detectives themselves, portrayed the shooting as the tragic end to a nonetheless justified confrontation, with Detective Isnora having what it called solid reasons to believe he was the only thing standing between Mr. Bell’s car and a drive-by shooting around the corner.

Several witnesses testified that they heard talk of guns in an argument between Mr. Bell and a stranger, Fabio Coicou, outside Kalua, an argument, the defense claimed, that was fueled by bravado and Mr. Bell’s intoxicated state. Defense lawyers pointed their fingers at Mr. Guzman, who, they said, in shouting for Mr. Bell to drive away when Detective Isnora approached, may have instigated his death.

Giuliani’s Christmas Ad (Revised)

Standard

Copying front runner Mike Huckabee and sinking in national polls like a stone, a desperate Rudy Giuliani came out with his own holiday ad to deceive and reassure gullible Republicans.   

Rudy: There a many things I wish for this Holiday Season.  I wish for peace with strength, secure borders, a government that spends less than it takes in, lower taxes for our business and families, and I really hope that all the presidential candidates can just get along.  

Santa:  Ho, Ho, Ho, I was with ya right up until that last one. 

Rudy:   Can’t have everything. I’m Rudy Giuliani and I approved this message. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.   

This is the parody ad I would have him release.  

Rudy:  There are many things I wish for this Holiday Season.  I wish for another 9/11 to scare the American people into voting for me, a government that spies on its own people, huge tax loopholes for the rich, and I really hope that before Bernie Kerik goes to jail, his mob friends will help me rub out the smug prick with perfect hair, Mitt Romney. 

Judi, the social climbing homewrecker: I wanna be First Lady and America’s Queen. 

Black Santa:  Ho, I was with ya right up until that last one.  

Rudy:  You black bastard, I’ll teach you to never say everything that pops into your head to a white woman.

Rudy’s security team shoots Santa in the back 41 times and calls it justifiable homicide because Black Santa “fit the description.” 

Rudy:  I’m Rudy Giuliani and I enthusiastically approved this gross display of racist police state fascism.  Merry Christmas. Seig Heil.

NYPD Brutalize Human Rights Attorney

Standard

 Attys Michael Tarif and Evelyn Warren leave 77th Precinct with supporters.

HAT TIP:  Black Electorate, By Amadi Ajamu, NY INDY MEDIA 

A human rights attorney known for handling cases of police brutality became a victim of police abuse last Thursday evening in Brooklyn. Attorney Michael Tarif Warren and his wife Evelyn, who is also an attorney, were driving along Vanderbilt Ave around 6:00 pm, when they witnessed NYPD officers “kicking and stomping” a handcuffed young black man. The Warrens pulled over to help.

Warren, a high profile attorney who has been practicing law for 28 years, said “We saw a young kid being chased by a horde of policemen across a McDonald’s parking lot. They tackled him and immediately put handcuffs on him. Then Sergeant Talvy, who appeared to be in charge, began kicking him in the head and ribs, and stomping him on the neck.” The other police officers followed suit. “They literally gave this kid a beating which was unconscionable.”

“Not only as people of conscience and moral decency, but as lawyers, we said this is outrageous.” They arrived and stood “more than ten feet away,” he said. Mr. Warren told Sergeant Talvy they were lawyers, and told him to stop and just take the young man to the precinct. In response he said, “Talvy shouted, I don’t give a f**k who you are, get the f**k back in your car!”

They returned to their car, and Mr. Warren began to write down the license plate numbers of the police vehicles as they watched them put the bleeding young man in a car. “Then Talvy comes to my car and viciously attacks me, repeatedly punching me through the window. Shouting, ‘Get out of the car!’ He dragged me out of the car, ripping my shirt and pants. My wife, very upset, asked him why are you doing this? He then punched her in the face.” Both were arrested and taken to the 77th precinct charged with obstruction, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.

Michael Tarif Warren, has handled many police misconduct cases in the black community, including the shocking police murder of graffiti artist Michael Stewart, and Yvonne Smallwood, who was beaten to death by police in the Bronx. He also handled the case exonerating the five young black teenagers falsely convicted of raping the white bank executive “Central Park Jogger.”

Quickly, word of the Warrens arrest spread, and several hundred people descended on the 77th Precinct demanding his release. Organizations including the December 12th Movement, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, Malcolm X Grassroots, International Action Center, CEMOTAP, the Muslim community, the Haitian community and many others were present and several media outlets were on hand.

NYC Councilman Charles Barron, Attorneys Roger Wareham, Reginald Haley, and Marisa Benton began negotiating their release with Brooklyn’s top brass, including Community Affairs Chief Douglas Zeigler, Brooklyn Borough Commander Chief Gerald Nelson, and 77th Precinct Executive Officer Michael Marino. At approximately 10:30 PM Evelyn Warren was released with a DAT (desk appearance ticket), Michael Warren was released with a DAT at 11:30 PM.

Councilman Barron and other community activists are demanding Talvy be fired and that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hines “drop the charges (against the Warrens) and charge the police.”

Barron further criticized recent NYPD policy of making cops who kill or assault people take Breathalyzer tests for alcohol. “We need to stop the killing. Police who murder and assault us must be charge with crimes and put in jail. That is the only deterrent.”

Evelyn Warren added, “We are professionals, if they do this to us in broad daylight on a crowded street, what do they do in the dark when no one is around? That’s what I’m concerned about. Officer Talvy must go and Police Commissioner Kelly must go, because his policy allows this behavior to continue.”

If charges against them are not dropped, Michael and Evelyn Warren vow to take the case to trial and use it as a community mobilizing and educating tool to fight police brutality.

Campaign Mailbag: Giuliani again reaches out to wingnut America

Standard

 

RUDY GIULIANI


Dear Wingnut,

I believe in solving problems through intimidation-not weakness-from hubris, not vacillation.

I’ve seen the everyday racism and homophobia of Americans across our country. I’ve seen people create political careers from nothing-using nothing more than the inherent fear white folks have of colored folks. I’ve witnessed how well it always works and have good reason to peddle the white fantasy that anybody can grow up to be President. In America, we love to congratulate ourselves for our openness to diversity while simultaneously asserting white privilege.

I am running for President because when I look to the future, I see a fascist police state where Americans are confident that their President is in rigid control of the country.

When I was first elected Mayor, we looked at the places where the City, or bureaucracy, or racial liberalism, were taking away people’s white pride. We cracked down and focused our sights—we took the bull by the horns.

Wages, hard work and ingenuity were overtaxed and overregulated. Too many white people felt like they couldn’t get ahead if they allowed black folks a level playing field and played by the rules. So we took decisive steps to dramatically slash social services and cut the N****** off welfare.

When I was elected Mayor, half the blacks were on welfare clogging up the system and sucking decent taxpayers dry. Therefore, we took on the state-sponsored liberal welfare state bullshit and turned “Welfare Offices” into “Job Centers” that became an Orwellian nightmare only a fascist could love.

We were successful because we refused to define deviancy down-instead we raised expectations and told the lazy ass blacks to get a damn job. We frustrated legitimate job seekers and people eligible for assistance and took on the black groups in the spirit of my mayoral campaign slogan, “one city, one fascist dictatorship.”

I’m writing you because you are some loon on a right-wing mailing list the campaign bought. You fancy yourself influential in your community and give to various and sundry right-wing causes and candidates. You know what they say, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” It would be great if you could be parted with a gift of $ 1,000, $500, $250, $100, $50, or even $25 bucks. If you could send it today, our grassroots hand holding and pacification of the troglodyte right can begin immediately.

We stand at one of he most crucial points in the history of the campaign-I got Fred Thompson breathing down my neck and I NEED YOUR SUPPORT.

Like you, I believe that Ronald Reagan was the greatest thing since sliced bread and that we must look toward the future to reassert our core values of hate, fear, racial polarization, respect for law and order, and a commitment to scaring the bejesus out of stupid people about Arab ragheads out to get us at home and around the world.

And while we know damn well that the bullshit in Baghdad and Afghanistan ain’t going well, I need to fill your stupid head up with ridiculous rhetoric about victory so that I can win your vote and the nomination.

This campaign is about strong, fascist leadership. When I took office in New York, people were afraid of criminal blacks and felt like they were losing control of their own lives. Drawing upon the “Broke Negroes” theory of policing, we cracked down on the quality-of-life-crimes such as walking, driving, and just plain being-while black. We cleaned the riff-raff out of Times Square so that wholesome white families from Nebraska could feel safe visiting the Big Apple.

To usher in an era of dictatorship based on our shared right-wing fascist Republican values, we must win this race for the White House so that I can uphold our priorities and demand accountability.

We will impose discipline on the budget by kicking the blacks and Hispanics off welfare. By doing so, we will reclaim our Reagan tradition as the party that understands the importance of hostility to minorities wins elections.

At the core of our approach to reform is the basic concept of white supremacy.

I believe that every parent should have the ability to send their child to the all-white school of their choice, be it public, private, or parochial.

We cannot be discouraged or cynical in the wake of our Party’s disastrous midterm F-up’s. For the Republican Party to win the presidency in 2008 and take back the majority in Congress, we must wholeheartedly embrace our core principles-or simply steal it again.

From the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, our party’s greatest contribution is to expanding the wealth of the top 1% and keeping the blacks and Hispanics down in this land and around the world.

When I say we should reduce taxes on the rich to stimulate the economy, I say it to slavishly appeal to the anti-tax nutcases and government phobic wingnuts that get off on that bullshit and will vote for me. It worked in New York because I did it and saw it work like a charm.

As Mayor, I stood up to the politics-as-usual agenda, held fast to my unprincipled demagoguery, and proved that:

  1. Tax relief creates more wealth for the rich and leaves the rest behind.
  2. Picking fights with a cartoonish clown like Al Sharpton was good for my approval ratings.
  3. Shooting an unarmed black man 41 times because the NYPD have a vague sense that he might have committed a crime is a public relations bonanza and an opportunity to pander to the basest elements of the white electorate.

Our party is at its best when it connects to the primal racial fears of the white populace.

At a time of war and danger, the Republican Party must nominate a proven demagogue. At a time when Americans want to feel confirmed in their desire for white privilege, the Republican Party must boldly lead in this direction. Being a stubborn prick with strong beliefs and the arrogance to stick with them through unpopular times is an essential characteristic of our next president.

I’ve been tested, after all, I was the gigantic asshole that brazenly flaunted my whore in public and then announced the dissolution of my marriage in a televised press conference before I asked my wife for a divorce to her face. If y’all can let me get away that bullshit and still take me seriously, I deserve the Republican nomination for President.

Sincerely,

Rudy Giuliani

New York City pays family of Timothy Stansbury $2million

Standard

Timothy Stansbury, Jr

HAT TIP: Herald Tribune NEW YORK: The city has agreed to pay $2 million (€1.48 million) to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of an unarmed teenager who was shot by police while atop a housing project.

The death of 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury in 2004 “was a tragedy, and we offer our condolences to the family,” city lawyer Ken Sasmor said Wednesday. “We believe the settlement is in the best interests of all parties and hope it will provide some small measure of comfort.”

A telephone call to the family’s attorney was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The shooting occurred while Officer Richard Neri and his partner were patrolling atop a housing project in Brooklyn. Stansbury and two friends had decided to use a roof as a shortcut to another building.

Neri’s partner pulled open a rooftop door so that Neri, his gun drawn, could peer inside for any drug suspects, police said. Stansbury startled the officers by appearing at the door and moving toward Neri, who responded with one shot he claimed he fired by accident.

Though Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the shooting appeared to be unjustified, a grand jury declined to indict Neri.

Kelly later suspended Neri for 30 days without pay and permanently stripped him of his weapon. The victim’s mother said the 30-day suspension was too light a punishment.

Officers indicted in Sean Bell case

Standard

Hat tip NY Times

NEW YORK (AP) — A grand jury Friday indicted at least three of the five police officers whose 50-shot barrage killed an unarmed man on his wedding day, lawyers for the officers said. It was not immediately disclosed if the other officers were also charged.

Attorneys for officers Marc Cooper, Gerscard Isnora and Michael Oliver said their clients had been indicted, but they did not know what offenses the officers had been charged with.

The three officers fired the most shots — Cooper, 4, Isnora, 11, and Oliver, 31 — in the Nov. 25 confrontation that killed 23-year-old Sean Bell and wounded two of his friends.

Isnora, 28, was ”very upset,” attorney Philip Karasyk said. ”But he is confident that once he has his day in court he will be vindicated.”

The shooting stirred outrage around New York City and led to accusations of racism against police. Bell was black, as are two of his friends who were wounded in the shooting. Two of the officers are white, and three are black.

The grand jury’s decision came after three days of deliberations.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said the charges marked an important first step in the fight for justice in the case.

”Since Nov. 25th, we have battled together. Today is a major step in that battle, whether it will be a step forward, time will tell. But one thing that we can say, if you stay together and you fight, you can do what is necessary to protect children,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said at a news conference.

Anticipation has been running high around New York City about the grand jury’s decision. Extra police officers were put on standby, and the mayor met with black leaders in the Queens neighborhood where shooting occurred in hopes of defusing any tensions that might arise from the decision.

”Whatever the grand jury says … I think you will see the people of this city behaving in an exemplary manner,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday. ”They can be disappointed, they can express themselves — that’s freedom of speech, I don’t have a problem with that. But nobody is going to go out and make our streets unsafe.”

Congressman Meeks incredulous about surprise witness testimony in Sean Bell case

Standard

Congressman Greg Meeks released the following statement regarding the Grand Juryn  proceedings in the Sean Bell Case in New York City:

“I’ve heard of 11th hour conversion but this is ridiculous. The public is being asked to believe that a witness, previously interviewed by the police has just come forward to say that he actually did see a mysterious Black male fire one or two shots at the police officers who were firing 50 shots at Sean Bell, Jose Guzman, and Trent Benefield. All three were unarmed. Bell was killed. Guzman and Benefield were seriously wounded.”

“This witness claims that he didn’t reveal what he saw because he was “scared.” But, now — even as the grand jury in the case is in the midst of deliberations and expected to render a decision in the next day or two — this witness’ “Christian conscience” would not let him be silent any longer.”

“Unbelievable and incredible, to put it mildly! Especially when the NYPD canvassed the block where the shooting occurred, the immediate neighborhood, and in fact in other neighborhoods, looking for a so-called “fourth man” who allegedly escaped while the hail of bullets were being fired (a preposterous story if there ever was one), but found nothing.”

“It appears to me that there may be unnamed parties who are eager to throw a monkey wrench into the gears of justice. This last minute episode has all the earmarks of a provocation and a maneuver to delay, if not disrupt, the grand jury process. I trust that neither District Attorney Brown nor the grand jury will allow a detour to be placed in the path of their patient, detailed, diligent work. I urge the community and people of goodwill throughout the city to remain vigilant, disciplined, and hopeful, at all times respecting justice and keeping their “eyes on the prize.”