A group of Republican lawmakers is calling on the state Parole Board to deny the release of a man convicted of killing NYPD officers in the 1970s.
Herman Bell, who is up for parole later this month, was convicted in 1979 of killing two New York City police officers and five Senate Republicans are saying his release could be an “affront” to all law abiding New Yorkers.
On May 21, 1971, NYPD officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones responded to a false 911 call from a housing project in Harlem. The two officers were then ambushed and killed by members of the Black Liberation Army. Jones was killed instantly while Piagentini was shot 22 times.
Bell, Anthony Bottom and Albert Washington were convicted of the two murders in 1979. The men were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
In 2009, Bell was met with another voluntary manslaughter charge for the murder of another cop in San Francisco that took place in August 1971.
Since his conviction, Bell has been denied parole six times. He is expected to have his seventh parole hearing since 2004 later this month. Piagentini’s widow Diane and his two daughters have appeared at each of Bell’s parole hearings to make their plea against his release.
Senator Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, several of his Senate colleagues and representatives from various police agencies are joining Diane Piagentini to call on the state Parole Board to deny Bell’s release.
Gallivan is a former New York State trooper, sheriff and member of the New York State Board of Parole. He said Bell’s release would be an insult to police everywhere and urged New Yorkers to sign an online petition to oppose the release.
“His release would be an affront to all law abiding citizens and would undermine respect for the law,” Gallivan said.
Senators Fred Akshar, R-Colesville; Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn; Terrence Murphy, R-Yorktown; and Elaine Phillips, R-Flower Hill, also spoke out against Bell’s parole.
Bell insists he has been rehabilitated while in prison and has even earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Senator Akshar, a former Broome County undersheriff, believes he should stay behind bars regardless of his growth.
“I put Herman Bell in the category of being the most vile and repugnant human being possible,” Akshar said.
Like the other Senate Republicans, he believes Bell should spend the rest of his life in jail, adding that the Board of Parole should show no mercy to Bell because he lacked mercy the night that Officers Piagentini and Jones were murdered.
Golden is asking the public to think of Piagentini’s widow and children. Golden, a retired NYPD officer, recalled a time when he saw a man he previously arrested at a gas station while with his family. Fearing for his family’s safety, he left immediately.
According to Golden, Bell’s release would show a lack of respect to Officer Piagentini’s family.
“Could you imagine this poor woman, these two daughters look over their shoulders and run into this man in the streets of the city of New York,” Golden said. “How sad is that?”
Since the sentencing, the laws regarding the murder of a police officer have changed. If the crime had been committed today, Bell would have been sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole.
Bell’s parole hearing is expected to take place the last week of February.