NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
Printable versionSend to a friendEmail Leonard LevittSign up to get column in email

Get a link in your mailbox to your weekly NYPD Confidential column as soon as it is published! Click on the button above right on this page — or here — to sign up for this feature.

The Politics of Parole

May 21, 2018   

We all know why Gov. Andrew Cuomo changed the rules for parole, making the inmate’s institutional record, such as education and remorse, more important than the crime itself, no matter how horrible. He has been tacking left to burnish his “progressive” credentials as he seeks a third term in November, to say nothing about a possible run for president in 2020.

But in the process, the governor has opened a Pandora’s box he may find difficult to shut. Whether this is good or bad depends on your point of view.

Click here to read what the police brass say about NYPD ConfidentialFirst came last month’s release of cop-killer Herman Bell. He is the Black Liberation Army member of the early 1970s who killed NYPD cops Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini in 1971, and was serving a sentence of 25 years to life. Despite PBA president Pat Lynch’s turning handsprings and cartwheels to stop it, 70-year-old Bell is now out. Free as a bird, as they say.

Bell’s release may be just the beginning. Next month, Bell’s BLA partner in the Jones-Piagentini murders, Anthony Bottom, comes up for parole. Again, the PBA is on the case. Last Friday, the union brought the families of Jones and Piagentini to present victims’ impact statements to the parole board.

But if Bell was granted parole, why not Bottom? Let’s see whether the flack over Bell’s release causes the parole board to waver.

Also due for a hearing next month is Eddie Matos, who is serving 25-years-to-life for the 1989 murder of NYPD cop Anthony Dwyer. Dwyer was chasing him after a burglary at the McDonald's in Times Square. Matos pushed Dwyer down a 25-foot air shaft to his death.

Then there’s Judith Clark, the white radical who drove the getaway car in the 1981 Brinks robbery in suburban Rockland County in which two cops and a security guard were killed. “Revolutionary violence is necessary,” Clark stated at her trial, while refusing to participate in it. She got the max, 75 years to life.

Click here to read the New York Times profile of Leonard LevittEnter Cuomo. In 2016, he visited her at the Bedford Hills Corrections facility, where she had become what people call “a model prisoner.” Cuomo then commuted her sentence to 35 years to life. This made her eligible for parole. “She has a helluva case,” Cuomo said at the time.

Her release was opposed by law enforcement groups, as well as relatives of the Brinks security guard and the two slain cops. A year later, the board voted unanimously to deny her parole.

In a twist, Clark, now 68, sued the parole board, saying it had treated her “as a symbol of a crime rather than as an individual.” Last month, a judge, citing her “remarkable transformation over the three decades during which she has been incarcerated,” ordered a new hearing.

Click here to read the Washington Post article on NYPD ConfidentialContrast the impending release of these cop-killers with that of Christopher Thomas. In 1984, Thomas killed eight children and two young mothers in what is known as the Palm Sunday massacre. Convicted of manslaughter, not intentional murder, he had served 32 years or two-thirds of the maximum 50-year sentence allowed by the state.

With no fanfare, Thomas, now 68, was released from an upstate prison earlier this year. Unlike the slain cops, the families of Thomas’s victims have no constituency.

« Back to top
Copyright © 2018 Leonard Levitt