2008-07-04 / Front Page

Judge Axes Bellamy Murder Rap

Orders Retrial Of '94 Conviction
By Howard Schwach

A Queens Supreme Court judge on Friday ordered a new trial for a Rockaway man who has spent the last 13 years in prison after being convicted for an April 1994 murder at Beach 47 Street and Beach Channel Drive.

Kareem Bellamy
Justice Joel Blumenfeld ordered the retrial for Kareem Bellamy, 40, who has already served 13 years of his 25-years-to-life sentence in the stabbing death of Rockaway resident James Abbott.

"He fell to the floor and stayed there [when he was told of the judge's decision]," his lawyer, Thomas Hoffman said.

The retrial order comes two years after Hoffman and his associates began their own investigation into the murder, after receiving a convincing packet from Bellamy's prison cell that included a videotape of his trial, which had been featured on Court TV.

According to Hoffman, he and his associates obtained a confession from another man earlier this year, in which that still unidentified man claims that he murdered Abbott, "because he was messing around with my girl."

"We felt that obviously the confession of the killer was very strong evidence that should entitle Bellamy to a new trial," Hoffman said.

The body of James Abbott lies on Beach Channel Drive on April 9, 1994. Kareem Bellamy was convicted of the murder, but new evidence led a judge to throw out that conviction last week.
According to a front page story that appeared in The Wave on April 16, 1994, Abbott had just come from the C-Town Supermarket and was carrying two shopping bags when he was accosted by two men and stabbed to death.

Abbott suffered multiple stab wounds that severed his aorta and punctured his lungs. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

On May 14, detectives from the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway picked Bellamy up and questioned him about the murder. He was arrested the same day on charges of murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

Convicted in 1995, mostly on the testimony of eyewitnesses, Bellamy never gave up his battle to overturn the conviction, constantly maintaining his innocence to anybody who would listen.

Hoffman believes that the police closed the case the day they found Bellamy.

"They never looked for the second man," he says. "I think they did that because they had Kareem for murder and they knew that he didn't do it."

Hoffman said that there is a mystery woman involved in the case, a woman with whom he would love to speak.

"Ten days after the murder, the cops got a call from a woman who identified herself as Anna Simmons," the attorney said. "She worked in the laundromat on the same block as C-Town. She told police that the two men, both wearing hoods, who killed Abbott were members of a local gang, and that Bellamy was not involved."

She allegedly provided the names of the two gang members to the police and told them details of the murder that were not made public.

Detectives never followed up on her story, Hoffman says. He told The Wave that when he asked the detectives why they had not followed her lead, he was told, "We didn't want to corrupt the investigation, and were afraid that they were going to flee."

Hoffman requested that The Wave ask that Simmons, who would now be in her 40's and is a graduate of Far Rockaway High School, come forward.

"Please tell Simmons to call me at 917-589-6156," Hoffman said. "If there is a retrial, we need to speak with her."

Does Bellamy face a retrial, or will Queens District Attorney Richard Brown decide to drop the charges in light of the recent new evidence?

While the prosecutor in the case said that charges would be refiled, Brown issued a statement on June 27 that read, "As the court noted in its decision, this office has a well-deserved reputation for investigating claims of actual innocence and is always prepared to take a hard look at a case - even postconviction - to make certain that justice is done. Accordingly, we will thoroughly review the court's decision to determine what further action is appropriate."

Law enforcement officials have said privately that they doubt the veracity of the confession entered into the record by Hoffman.

"We have a long way to go," Hoffman told The Wave on Monday. "We will move for bail at [Bellamy's] next court date on August 7. We are cautiously optimistic because he has served fourteen years of his sentence and the court should back bail."

"It is hard for the system to admit that it made a mistake," he added. "It will take time to get his release, but this is one step forward towards that end."

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