2008-04-18 / Top Stories

Sanders: Justice Demands Guilty Verdict In Bell Case

By Howard Schwach

Sanders, with Nicole Paultry Bell, the fiancée of the man shot by police. Sanders, with Nicole Paultry Bell, the fiancée of the man shot by police. City Councilman James Sanders says that he wants nothing but justice in the Sean Bell case. Sanders, who represents Far Rockaway, believes strongly, however, that justice in the case of three police officers who were indicted in the shooting of Bell and his friends, demands that they be found guilty by Judge Arthur Cooperman.

Bell was shot by police outside a Jamaica strip bar in November of 2006. The police officers testified that they believed Bell and his friends had a gun, and that shots were being fired at them from the car Bell was driving.

Sanders, however, is not buying that story.

"There can be no justice in the Bell case unless the police officers are found guilty of his murder," Sanders told The Wave this week. "I believe that [the police officers] broke numerous police protocols. They took themselves away from [legitimate] police business, and they should be liable [for his death]."

Black leaders and clergy members met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week at a Jamaica church to discuss the possibility that Cooperman, who is hearing the case as a bench trial without a jury, will find the three not guilty.

The New York City Police Department has planned for that eventuality with beefed up patrols around the courthouse and in Far Rockaway, Bell's hometown.

Sanders does not believe there will be violence should the officers be found not guilty, however.

"If there is not justice, then we will absolutely call for a peaceful, law-abiding, responsible, but militant demonstration," Sanders said. "We have the right to protest, but we have to do it without burning down our neighborhoods."

"Everyone has the right to express what they believe," he added. "It is up to the leadership to move that expression in a positive way. It is up to the leaders to lead and not walk away from this issue."

Sanders believes that the Bell case will not end with Cooperman's verdict, no matter what it might be.

"This will go on for years," he says. "There will be civil court trials, federal court suits and investigations. This is not the end of the process, but only the beginning."

Cooperman is expected to make his decision on April 25.

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