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Man who killed two cops sues for parole, claiming he's rehabilitated and plays the flute

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In Harlem in 1971, Patrolmen Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones were ambushed and shot to death by members of a violent subsection of the Black Panthers called the Black Liberation Army. Even though Jones was a black man, they justified his killing in the “Black Struggle” by claiming “a pig is a pig.” Jones was killed by a single gunshot to the head.

Officer Piagentini was not granted a swift death. He was shot 22 times, including with his own gun. Herman Bell, is one of the members of the Black Liberation who shot Piagentini, ignoring his pleas as he begged “I have a wife and two children.” Fast forward 44 years later, it is now Bell’s pleas being ignored by Piagentini’s widow.

NYPD officers Waverly Jones (L) and Joseph Piagentini (R), who were murdered by Herman Bell and others in Harlem in 1971.
NYPD officers Waverly Jones (L) and Joseph Piagentini (R), who were murdered by Herman Bell and others in Harlem in 1971.

As reported by the Daily Mail, Bell, who is incarcerated at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, has filed papers in Manhattan Supreme Court stating that he should be freed since he has now become a changed man, much to the objection of Diane, Officer Piagentini’s widow. Bell is currently trying to overturn the court’s decision to deny parole for the sixth time, citing they failed to recognize he showed remorse for his killings. If he is successful, he could have his freedom won by the summer and would be the first Black Panther to be free after murdering a police officer.

Bell’s lawyers say his last hearing was a “sham” and that the members of the panel already had their minds made up.

Mugshot of Herman Bell, one of the Black Liberation Army members who shot and killed officers Piagentini and Jones.
Mugshot of Herman Bell, one of the Black Liberation Army members who shot and killed officers Piagentini and Jones.

“Mr. Bell presented the Board with an extraordinary record of achievements while incarcerated, a positive psychological evaluation, a strong release plan, and numerous letters of support from all walks of society.” his court papers say. They also include “On his own initiative, Mr Bell has studied music theory and learned to play the flute.” Diane thinks he is just playing the system.

Herman Bell in a recent photo.  Image credit: freehermanbell.org
Herman Bell in a recent photo. Image credit: freehermanbell.org

“It took him 39 or 40 years to even admit what he did and the only reason he did was because he sees it as his only way of getting out of prison. Life has to mean life in his case. He has a lot of supporters and they will see him as a hero if he is freed. He is only full of rhetoric. It is unfortunate that the death penalty wasn’t an option in New York when he murdered Joe and Waverly. I would have definitely supported it.”

If Bell is granted parole, it could mean the second man convicted for the murder – Anthony Bottom, now known as Jalil Muntaqim – could make a similar plea for freedom after being denied parole. Albert ‘Nuh’ Washington, the third man convicted, died in prison in 2000.

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