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Why So Quiet About Andy, Pat?

April 16, 2018

Poor Pat Lynch. Ever since the New York State Parole Board granted the release of Herman Bell, the Black Liberation Army member who killed NYPD cops Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini in 1971, the PBA president has performed handsprings and cartwheels to stop Bell’s release.

And his problems with the parole board are just beginning. Bell’s BLA partner in the murders, Anthony Bottom, comes up for parole consideration in June.

So far, Lynch has railed at the parole board for failing to consider the sentencing minutes at Bell’s trial. Those minutes include the recommendations of the state prosecutor and sentencing judge that, had the death penalty been in effect in 1971, Bell warranted it. The minutes also include a defense attorney’s statement that Bell was “beyond redemption and can never be rehabilitated.”

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialLynch also has railed against state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who represents the parole board, because Schneiderman claims that widow Diane Piagentini lacks the legal standing to challenge the board’s decision. Schneiderman says only inmates have that standing.

Lynch has taken the Piagentini legal-standing issue to court, and last week State Supreme Court judge Richard Koweek postponed Bell’s April 17 release date while he ponders. Sources expect him to rule later this week.

Yet, there is one person Lynch has avoided criticizing: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appointed the current parole board.

In addition, it was Cuomo who reversed the board’s priorities when deciding parole. Under Cuomo, the circumstances of the crime — no matter how heinous — have less value than the inmate’s institutional record. Specifically, the board now gives most weight to the conduct of the prisoner, his or her disciplinary record, educational advancements and remorse. 

The governor has said he opposes Bell’s release. His statement, issued by a spokesperson, pales in fervor to that of Mayor Bill de Blasio, with whom Lynch has been forever feuding. The mayor said of Bell’s release: “Murdering a police officer in cold blood is a crime beyond the frontier of rehabilitation or redemption.”

Last week, Lynch sought to arrange a meeting between Cuomo and Diane Piagentini. Instead, the governor’s counsel offered to meet with her. Piagentini refused. The meeting never took place.

Lynch has remained silent about that, too.

Some people at the PBA and at Police Plaza — [as well as your Humble Servant] — believe Cuomo is tacking left to head off statewide progressive discontent as he seeks a third term in November, and to flaunt his liberal credentials should he run for president in 2020.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittNobody, though, can explain Lynch’s silence regarding the governor. Asked about it last week, a PBA official said: “I got to go now.”

. The city reeled last week from the police shooting in Crown Heights of Saheed Vassell, a 34-year-old, emotionally disturbed black man. Responding to three 911 calls about a man carrying what looked like a gun and threatening people with it, a four-man, anti-crime team arrived and fired 10 shots, killing Vassell.

Enter The New York Times’s Ginia Bellafante with a novel theory. In her column “Big City,” she appeared to blame Vassell’s shooting on gentrification — specifically, white people unfamiliar with Vassell and his Crown Heights neighborhood.

As Bellafante put it: “Middle-aged couples from the Marais or recent graduates of Middlebury would have known nothing of Mr. Vassell, his eccentricities and patterns.”

According to Bellafante, people from the Marais, a district in Paris, or from Middlebury, an upscale college in Vermont, apparently lack the cultural sensitivity to appreciate that what they thought was a gun was actually a pipe with a knob. They also failed to appreciate that, as she put it, “the man who looked as if he might be a dangerous assailant was someone well known, a welder and a father with bipolar disorder, a frequent, harmless presence on the streets.”

Well, a picture of the pipe with a knob, released by the police, looks a lot like a gun to me. As for Vassell’s harmless presence, he had previously been served with 120 previous summonses and arrested 20 times.

“It was not long before a belief took hold in the community,” Bellafante wrote, “that the people who had alerted the police to Mr. Vassell’s erratic behavior were surely outsiders — new arrivals…. The notion that the invaders, afraid of what they did not know, were surely responsible, exemplified the growing terror around gentrification.”

Bellafante might argue that a reporter’s job is to report what people say, silly as it might be. But that is not enough.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialHer disgraced former Times colleague Judith Miller often said that areporter was only as good as his or her sources. In fact, a good reporter is often better than his or her sources. For example, there is no evidence to suggest that any of those three 911 callers were “outsiders.”

It is a reporter’s job to point that out.

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