Andrea Peyser needs Al Sharpton's help. The Post columnist has been doing her sneering best to try to pump some racial tension into the trial of three cops accused of murdering Sean Bell. Lately, though, Peyser sounds more frustrated than incendiary: "This was supposed to be a case about racist cops shooting a black man for no good reason," she recently complained. Where is Reverend Sharpton to make an inflammatory stand when you need him?
Disney World, that's where!
While political watchers spent last week looking ahead to primaries in Ohio and Texas, the candidates engaged in a serious debate — over a photo of Barack Obama wearing Somali clothing. (An Obama staffer claimed Hillary Clinton had leaked the shot to make him look Islamic; Clinton’s campaign manager said no one had claimed the photo was “divisive” until Obama and his new friend at the Post played it up.) Latecomer Ralph Nader, unsafe at any speed as far as most liberals are concerned, moseyed into the presidential race. Connecticut senator Christopher Dodd backed Obama; Jersey governor Jon Corzine rushed to aid the Clintons in Cleveland.
As witness testimony in the Sean Bell trial continues, new details provide some clarification and more questions about the young man's last night. Bell's friends Larenzo Kinred and Hugh Jensen took the stand today to explain what they remembered about that evening outside of Club Kalua. According to the Times, they corroborated accounts by police officers that Bell had gotten into an argument with a man dressed in black who seemed to have a gun. The cops say that the altercation is what led them to believe that Bell and his friends might have been getting into the car to perform a drive-by shooting, but Kindred and Jensen say the fight wasn't so serious — both weren't even distracted from their pursuit of women they had met in the club. They also said they had seen two white men inside the club and assumed they were cops. There is still much debate over whether or not Bell and his friends knew white police officer Michael Oliver was a cop when he approached them in their car. Prosecutors have said that they did not, and that they tried to speed away because they were afraid they were getting carjacked. For more of what we know about that fateful evening, see Robert Kolker's piece in this week's New York.
Friends of Bell Describe Argument Outside Club [NYT]
Related:A Bad Night at Club Kalua [NYM]
It’s textbook defense-lawyer strategy: dirty up the victim. And, yesterday, during opening arguments at the Sean Bell trial, the tactic was on full display, as the man who died in a hail of 50 NYPD bullets took a few more blows, this time to his reputation and character. Totally predictable, cringe-inducing — and entirely necessary if you’re defending the detectives who killed a seemingly defenseless man hours away from his wedding. What makes the argument far more interesting, and potentially more powerful, is the defense lawyer who’s using it. Anthony Ricco is one of the city’s most gifted defense attorneys. He also happens to be black and Muslim, and he favors fedoras and eyeglasses straight from the Malcolm X catalogue. While Ricco’s race helps mute the blue-versus-black story line and regularly draws him taunts from simplistic racial demagogues like councilman Charles Barron, the attitude Ricco deploys on behalf of his vilified clients is fascinatingly complicated.
• Lawyers everywhere are crossing their fingers for a Michael Clayton Oscar win. "In 80 years, only 10 legal movies or actors playing members of the legal community have taken home gold," a columnist sighs. Awwwwww. Wait a second. We didn't do the math, but isn't that more than like, every other profession? How many people playing bloggers have won Oscars, for instance? Slickster lawyers. Always trying to trick us with their fancy talk. [Law.com]
• Could John Edwards be our next attorney general? [The American]
• The Sean Bell "50-shot" case is set to go to trial on Monday. [NYT]
• The Spitzer mess is getting, well, messier. Turns out two of guv’s closest aides, including his chief of staff (who still has his job), stonewalled Cuomo’s probe, which doesn’t quite jibe with Spitzer’s claims of full cooperation. [NYP]
• Police-shooting victim Sean Bell’s fiancée and two friends have sued the NYPD for wrongful death, civil-rights violations, false arrest, and emotional distress; the suit names all five officers who were on the scene, including two who were cleared of wrongdoing. [Reuters]
• Because more than 24 hours have passed without any agonizing over Bloomberg’s presidential plans and how they might affect the race, you’ll be happy to know he’s registered the domain mike2008.com (while continuing to maintain full deniability). [NYDN]
• Shocker: The new MTA budget will call for subway fare and toll increases. We don’t know by how much yet, but they want to raise the revenue by 6.5 percent; do your own worst-case-scenario math. [NYT]
• And the city’s cab drivers are finalizing citywide strike plans for September, over those pesky GPS tracking systems the city wants to install in every cab. We think we’ll just stay home. [amNY]
• Thanks to the limp dollar, New York is now only the fifteenth most expensive city in the world. Moscow (where a luxury bedroom is $4,000 a month), London, and Seoul are the top three. [amNY]
• The Post is up in arms over Bloomberg's pay-to-the-poor incentive program, with experts warning it may cost the city "hundreds of millions." Those poor get all the breaks. [NYP]
• In the wake of the Sean Bell case, NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly wants to institute sobriety testing for every cop who shoots someone. (One of Bell's killers had two beers before the shooting.) [NYDN]
• The city has paid a $29,000 settlement to Jill Coccaro, a woman erroneously arrested for going topless. In New York, of course, women have a full, if woefully rarely exercised, right to take off their shirts in public. And yet we can't dance in bars. [CNN]
• And, you think Bush v. Gore was bad? Residents of Potter, an upstate town, accidentally voted to ban alcohol in a ballot mix-up and might soon be forced to go dry. [NYT]
• The Sean Bell case continues providing bizarre auxiliary scandals. Now the boss of a grand-jury star witness (a janitor claiming to have seen someone shoot at cops that night) is arrested — for commanding the janitor to keep quiet. [NYP]
• Mayor Bloomberg is dishing out some of his patented TLC as thousands in Brooklyn and Queens begin defaulting on their high-interest mortgages: It's "the marketplace at work," he explains. "You can blame the people that borrowed the money." Stop griping! [NYDN]
• The Yankee dynasty may be left without an heir apparent: Steinbrenner's daughter, Jenny, is divorcing George's announced successor Steve Swindal. (Of course, there are three more Steinbrenner kids in VP positions). [amNY]
• Scorned bicyclists are filing a federal lawsuit against the NYPD, whose new rules let cops stop and ticket any group of 50 or more cyclists that doesn't have a parade permit. (How about a parade permit for those pointless cop-car swarms down Fifth Avenue?) [Streetsblog]
• If your bike is your livelihood, however, you're on easy street, kind of. The city just signed a law that requires businesses to provide helmets and ensure safety (new brakes, etc.) to bike messengers and delivery workers. [NYT]
• Remember yesterday's sensational admission by a Queens drug dealer that he was once shot — "in the buttocks" — by the future police victim Sean Bell? Disregard. Not only is the guy backtracking, he denies ever saying it to the cops (who say they have it on tape). [NYP]
• Meanwhile, in the wake of the Village gunman's rampage, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the city is giving its 4,500 auxiliary cops bulletproof vests (at the cost of more than $2 million). Thing is, though, one of the two slain officers was wearing a vest. [amNY]
• And another cop got shot in the ankle. In Park Slope. By a guy who was facing nothing more serious than a possession charge (he was spotted smoking a joint on the street). Great. [NYDN]
• The home-buying boom's worst-case scenario is playing out in Newark, which has one of the highest concentrations of brutal "subprime loans" in the country: Staggering debt and foreclosures are close to wiping out entire neighborhoods. [NYT]
• And a city councilwoman is proposing a citywide ban on all exotic animal performers, timed to coincide with the circus' arrival at the Madison Square Garden. We wouldn't be the first, either — progressive places from Pasadena to Provincetown have already passed the proposal. [MetroNY]