On May 21, 1971, Diane Piagentini’s husband, Police Officer Joseph Piagentini, was brutally and sadistically murdered by three members of the Black Liberation Army who lured him and his partner, Police Officer Waverly Jones, to a City housing project with a false call for help where they were ambushed and assassinated. Black Liberation Army members Anthony Bottom, Herman Bell and Albert Washington were convicted of the cold-blooded assassination but were spared the death penalty which had just been declared unconstitutional to the dismay of both the sentencing judge and prosecutor at the time.
All three cop-killers were given to the maximum allowable sentence of 25 years to life, making them eligible for parole consideration after 25 years of incarceration. Recent changes to the parole guidelines, which made the likelihood of committing more crimes the major factor in considering an inmate for parole while virtually disregarding the nature of the crime as a consideration, have resulted in the release of three cop-killers, including BLA member Herman Bell, a shooter in this case, and the murderer of a Assistant District Attorney.
PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said:
“I challenge anyone to cite a more horrendous crime than the planned, cold-blooded, sadistic assassinations of Police Officers Piagentini and Jones, the details of which are shocking. Parole is not supposed to be, and I am quoting the law here, ‘incompatible with the welfare of society’ nor should it ‘deprecate[s] the seriousness of his crime as to undermine respect for the law.’ And that is exactly what happens when you release cop-killers. It undermines respect for the law and deprecates the seriousness of the crime because killing a police officer is a direct attack on the authority that protects society. We accept that there is a place for the appropriate use of parole in minor crimes but it is never appropriate in the case of cop-killers or the premeditated murder of anyone. If you plan to kill someone and you do, you have given up your life of freedom for the life that you have ended. No parole for cop-killers, ever.”
Mrs. Diane Piagentini said:
“The loss of my Joe has had a devastating impact on my life and that of our two daughters. Time has the ability to erase from the public memory how horrendous the murder of Joe and Waverly was in 1971 but it has not erased that memory from us or from the damage done to our lives. For nearly 40 years, Anthony Bottom and his already released partner, Herman Bell, failed to show any remorse or take responsibility for their crimes until it became apparent under the new guidelines that being old and faking remorse was all that is required to get out of prison. It is mind boggling that the parole board could find that the release of musician John Lennon’s murderer was incompatible with the welfare of society but the release of cop-killers isn’t! Anthony Bottom must remain in jail for the rest of his life for what he did and we are presently in court seeking standing to challenge the Parole Board’s abuse of discretion in releasing Herman Bell, who should never have been released. The Parole Board is out of control and we need legislation to rein it in for the good of society.”
PBA President Pat Lynch recently made suggestions to the State Legislature that are designed to bring parole policy into line with the spirit of the existing law of the state, specifically, the Crimes Against Police Act of 2005 which imposes life without parole on cop-killers.
Repeal the 2011 amendment to the Executive Law, which mandated the Parole Board to be guided by the numerical score generated by a “risk and needs assessment” tool in rendering their determinations, and to provide an individualized explanation for any departure from those scores.
Enact statutory requirements that re-emphasize the seriousness of the instant offense, specifically in connection with its impact on respect for the law and the welfare of society as a whole, in the Parole Board’s decision-making process.
Pass legislation – introduced as S.8921 to amend the Executive Law to clarify that crime victims, their family members or representative have standing to appeal Parole Board determinations.
Urge the Senate to exercise even greater scrutiny over Parole Board appointments.