Why the Sean Bell Trial Hasn’t Exploded (Yet)
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!
Differences of OpinionWhile 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.
Sean Bell’s Friends Shed More Light on His Final MomentsAs 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]
Chris Smith: Tony Ricco’s Racial PoliticsIt’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 Advocate an Oscar for ‘Michael Clayton’ — That George Clooney Makes Them Look So Good!LEGAL
• 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]
A Spitzer Stonewall?
• 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]
What a Bargain!
• 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]
Bell, Boss, and Bikes
• 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]
Really, What the Bell?
• 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]
What the Bell?
• This shouldn’t necessarily sway anyone’s opinion about the Sean Bell shooting, but it’s, um, interesting: A drug dealer tells the police he was once shot by Bell. Cops call the story credible (shocker). [NYDN]
• Wesley Autrey, the Subway Superman, gains a Subway Lex Luthor in lawyer Diane Kleiman. Kleiman and her partner have allegedly swindled Autrey into a deal that would give them half of whatever he gets (book advance, speaking fees, etc.). [NYP]
• Jacob the Jeweler is heading to the courtroom on some serious charges: helping launder $270 million in drug money for a Detroit-based crime ring. Now that’s cred. [AP via amNY]
• JPMorgan Chase has released a twelve-page assessment that itemizes Brooke Astor’s fortune: $41 million in real estate, $23.5 million in stocks, and $816 in the bank. [NYT]
• And the day’s Headless Body Award (it’s our new, ad-hoc headline-pun prize) goes to Metro New York, for running the gamut from the awesome “Marky Marksman” (a Shooter review) to the god-awful “An Indie-sent Proposal” (a SXSW feature). [MetroNY]
Second Avenue Subway: It’s Coming
• The MTA has finally committed to the Second Avenue Subway, signing the $337 million contract with MTA Capital Construction (hey! nepotism!) to build the first leg of the line. Only six to eight months until the tunnel-boring machine revs up. [NYP]
• The third cop in the Sean Bell case — Detective Marc Cooper, the one who fired the fewest shots and faces the weakest charges — may get a separate trial. His attorney is mulling a motion to sever. [NYDN]
• One imagines working at a Bronx welfare office is depressing enough without being “groped, fondled, tackled, kissed, and spanked” by a supervisor. Even, or perhaps especially, a female supervisor who calls herself “Hurricane.” [WNYC]
• Uma Thurman and bizarre hotelier André Balazs have split up. We predict his impending move into the William Beaver house. [amNY]
• And the Postal Service is introducing new Zip Codes to the Upper East Side, 10065 and 10075, which means that the iconic 10021 will shrink even further (it will extend only from East 69th to East 76th). The sound you hear is corks popping at the local paperies as thousands of millionaires order new stationery. [NYT]
Cops Plead, Naomi Cleans
• The three cops indicted in the 50-shot shooting of Sean Bell pleaded not guilty yesterday. They have quite a bit to deny, too: The charges could get two of them 25 years in prison. [NYT]
• Yesterday’s antiwar rally in the financial district brought a whopping 44 arrests for disorderly conduct. Considering the event involved a total of 70 people — in organizers’ estimation! — that’s quite a percentage. [amNY]
• Naomi Campbell started her community-service sentence yesterday, in a ritual that, once we’ve seen Boy George wield a broom, has become a kind of routine (if bizarre) photo op. The News lists the details of her work attire for the curious. [NYDN]
• Coming soon to NYU: the treasure trove of the Communist Party of America. Marvel at Joe Hill’s rhyming will, Lenin buttons, and “smuggled directives from Moscow”! [NYT]
• And the Health Department is still on its rat-fueled, restaurant-shuttering rampage; the latest victim of the new zeal is Brasserie LCB on 55th Street, where the French owner says the inspectors “acted like the Gestapo.” So he didn’t mind closing, then? [NYP]
Three Officers Charged in Sean Bell ShootingQueens District Attorney Richard A. Brown just announced details from the indictment against the police officers accused of shooting and killing Sean Bell on November 25, 2006, outside a Queens strip club. Of the five cops under investigation, two were charged with manslaughter. Detectives Michael Oliver and Gescard Isnora face up to 25 years in prison for charges including manslaughter, assault, and reckless endangerment. Another detective, Marc Cooper, was charged with two counts of reckless endangerment and could be imprisoned for one year. Two other policemen at the scene that night were not charged. Oliver, Isnora, and Cooper will be arraigned later today in the Supreme Court in Kew Gardens.
Statement by Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown [Queens District Attorney’s Office]
Sean Bell Indictments May or May Not Be Revealed on MondayThe grand jury examining evidence in the Sean Bell shooting has apparently reached a decision, but Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown will not announce any indictments, or a lack of them, until Monday morning. However, at least one lawyer representing an NYPD detective in the case believes that his client will be charged. The Reverend Al Sharpton is also confident the case will continue: “If you seal something, that means someone has been charged,” he told NY1. “You can’t seal an un-indictment.” We can’t fault his logic there.
Bell Grand Jury Decision To Be Revealed Monday [NY1]
• The grand jury in the Sean Bell 50-bullet shooting case is about to start deliberations; there’s a fear that, should it fail to indict the cops, some unrest may erupt. You know things are shaky because Bloomberg found the time for an Al Sharpton meet-and-greet. [amNY]
• In the meantime, a police shootout in Harlem ended with a plainclothes officer wounded and the suspect dead. (In a separate incident, two other officers were slashed with a knife while serving a subpoena.) No justification of the Bell business implied, but … a tough job, this. [WNBC]
• Since we’re apparently the kind of city where people punch 85-year-old women in the face, we might need a special law against punching 85-year-old women in the face. A new Albany proposal suggests a penalty hike for attacking anyone over 70. [NYP]
• The Health Department may deny that it’s been on a rampage ever since the rat video, but even the Times cites the “furious pace” of closings: 94 places shut down in twelve days. [NYT]
• And, Bernie Kerik has rejected a deal with the Feds that included him doing some light time for his impressive litany of still-alleged transgressions: tax fraud, conspiracy to eavesdrop (hi Jeanine!), and mortgage fraud. So, on to a trial then? Excellent. [NYDN]
George and Hillary Want 9/11 Health Care
• The health of 9/11 first responders finally becomes a major political issue; President Bush will address it in tonight’s State of the Union address, and now-official White House contender Hillary Clinton used ground zero to announce her $1.9 billion long-term treatment initiative. [amNY]
• The Sean Bell case began in earnest yesterday, with the 23-member grand jury beginning to parse the evidence in the infamous 50-shot police slaying of an unarmed man. The presentation will take close to a month; detractors say the D.A. is using the occasion for a “minitrial.” [NYP]
• A side effect of being rich and famous is that people think they don’t need to make good on their debts to you. For instance, New Delhi owes New York City $16.4 million (in real-estate taxes for the properties India owns here). Our courts are tempted to tweak the laws so the city can sue. [DNA World]
• “Come on, guys, we can get more mileage out of this antique-dealer-suing-bum story. Angles, think angles.” “How about the bum’s son comes to town to reconcile with him?” “Perfect.” [NYDN]
• And a mass evacuation of New York City will commence today via the Brooklyn Bridge, under the cover of Coast Guard cutters and military helicopters. Luckily, it’s all so that Will Smith can save the earth or become a stockbroker or something. [7Online]