2008-11-07 / Front Page

Bellamy Case Turns Into Prime Time Soap Opera

Freed After 14 Years, Faces Return To Prison
By Howard Schwach

The case of Kareem Bellamy, the Rockaway man who spent 14 years in prison for a murder he says he did not commit before being freed two months ago, is beginning to look like a bad soap opera, scripted by a writer with a bizarre sensibility.

Bellamy, center, flanked by attorney Thomas Hoffman (left) and private detective Ed Henson after Bellamy's release. Bellamy, center, flanked by attorney Thomas Hoffman (left) and private detective Ed Henson after Bellamy's release. For a neophyte, it's often tough to follow the bouncing ball.

There is Bellamy himself, a man who spent fourteen years in jail and who most observers now believe to be innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

There is Ed "Black Cloud" Henson, a tough private eye who learned his trade as a housing detective in Rockaway's public housing complexes.

There is attorney Thomas Hoffman, so convinced of Bellamy's innocence that he took his case and spent both time and money to clear a man he had never met until a year ago.

There is Michael Green, a streetwise Rockaway man who says he falsified a tape that pointed to another man as the murderer because he wanted to "play" Hoffman for a few thousand dollars and because he believes Bellamy to be innocent. Green, who told The Wave this week that he is not an informer and that he never put anybody in jail, now says that he is sorry that he got mixed up in the entire mess and that neither Hoffman nor Henson knew that the tape that got Bellamy out of jail was bogus.

Kareem Bellamy and his mother, Geraldine, shortly after he was released from prison and returned to Rockaway. A November 16 hearing will determine if Bellamy has to return to prison. Kareem Bellamy and his mother, Geraldine, shortly after he was released from prison and returned to Rockaway. A November 16 hearing will determine if Bellamy has to return to prison. There is Joe O'Brien, an ex-FBI agent who worked for Hoffman and drew Henson from the detective's Florida home back to Rockaway in an attempt to clear Bellamy. O'Brien is so sure of Bellamy's innocence that he put up his own Florida condo as collateral for his bail.

And, there is Anna Simmons, a mystery woman who told police in 1993 that she knew that two gangbangers, and not Bellamy, had committed the murder and then disappeared to this day.

Those are the players involved in the drama that got Bellamy out of jail and now threatens to put him back in.

A Detective from the 101 Precinct stands over the body of James Abbott on Beach 47 Street on April 9, 1994. A Detective from the 101 Precinct stands over the body of James Abbott on Beach 47 Street on April 9, 1994. Roughly four months ago, Queens Supreme Court Judge Joel Blumenthal vacated Bellamy's conviction in the stabbing murder of James Abbott on Beach 47 Street on April 9, 1994.

Queen District Attorney Richard Brown said, "The sole basis for the court's setting aside the defendant's conviction was a recorded conversation proffered by the defense, which purported to be between a defense witness and a third party, in which the third party confessed to having stabbed the victim - the crime for which the defendant was convicted."

In mid-August, Judge Blumenthal released Bellamy from jail pending a new trial.

But the informant who provided the tape to defense lawyer Thomas Hoffman and private detective Ed Henson has since told authorities in the Queens District Attorney's office that he staged the recording "to create false evidence because I was paid thousands of dollars by the attorneys for Kareem Bellamy."

A spokesperson for the defense team told The Wave on Monday that they now acknowledge that the tape was bogus, but added that they did not know the tape was fake when they received it.

And, although the informant who provided the tape, Rockaway resident Michael Green, now acknowledges that he perjured himself in court when he testified that the tape was genuine, the district attorney has provided him with immunity in return for his testimony.

Green came to The Wave offices early on Wednesday morning to "clear his name."

"I really got myself into a mess, and I'm sorry for that," Green, 48, said. "I knew Henson from when he was a detective in Rockaway and he told me about Bellamy and how he was innocent. I wanted to help and I told him a story."

Green says that he met with Henson only once, the first day in the Edgemere projects when he decided to make up the story and help Bellamy. Although the Daily News has reported that Henson fed him facts about Bellamy's case, Green says that is not true.

"Henson was asking around about Simmons," he said. "He didn't bring up anybody's name or anything and he didn't feed me any facts."

Green says that he went to Hoffman's office to speak about the case and Hoffman showed him the Court TV tape of Bellamy's trial.

"I wanted to help the guy and I wanted to play Hoffman for money," Green says.

He took some "expense money" from Hoffman, he says, and paid a friend $100 bucks to act the part of the real killer on the tape. He then turned the tape over to Hoffman.

Neither Hoffman nor Henson knew the tape was bogus, Green reiterated, adding that he was not an "informant" for the police and never worked with the police to put anybody in jail.

He says they first learned that the tape was bogus after the man named as the killer went public and his story began to unravel. This occurred after Green had perjured himself in court by saying that the tape was real.

He is angry that the Daily News portrayed him as an informer, a title that is likely to get a man killed in Far Rockaway.

"The News jeopardized my life and my family's life," he said. "I have never been an informer."

His admission that the tape was faked, however, started a firestorm.

Prosecutors asked the judge last Friday to reinstate the guilty verdict and to send Bellamy back to prison immediately.

Blumenthal, however, allowed Bellamy, now 41, to remain free on bail with the added ruling that Bellamy wear an ankle bracelet monitor.

"No fraud has been proven yet," Blumenthal said, "We haven't had a hearing."

He then set a hearing for November 13 to resolve the questions about the recording and to decide whether or not Bellamy should be returned to prison.

Brad Leventhal, the assistant district attorney who is running the case for the District Attorney's office, however, said, "This court was duped, this court was misled, this court should be incensed."

A spokesperson for Brown said that prosecutors have always been skeptical of the taped confession.

After the alleged killer identified on the tape came forward and said that he never spoke to Green about the murder, sources say, prosecutors interviewed Green, who said that he had fabricated the tape because Hoffman and the two private investigators involved in the case told him that Bellamy was innocent. He said that he then paid a friend $100 to play the part of the murderer on the tape.

Hoffman told the New York Times that he had paid money to Green to help him relocate because he was afraid to stay in Rockaway. Hoffman said that both the DA's office and the court were told of the payment.

All in all, Green says, Hoffman paid him between $4 and $5 thousand dollars for expenses and to relocate after his court testimony.

Henson, better known as "Black Cloud," when he patrolled Rockaway's public housing complexes before he retired as a detective from the NYPD, termed Leventhal's charges that Green was paid off by the defense team to fake the tape, "a very serious accusation about us that has no substantiation whatsoever."

"What Leventhal did is criminal," Henson told The Wave on Monday. "He knows for a fact that we did not fabricate the information. We did not know that the tape was fabricated and we are not walking away from his charges."

"I wouldn't ruin my reputation by lying for anybody," he added. "Leventhal has been trying to screw up this case from day one. He knows that there is still another suspect out there."

Henson adds that the Daily News' contention that he filled Green in on aspects of the case that were then filtered into the tape is ridiculous.

"He came to me and said that he had a tape," the private detective says. "I never filled him in about anything. I was here [in New York City] for only a day or two when he came up to me and said that he had been told by the killer that Bellamy was innocent."

Henson, who has been involved in law enforcement for more than 25 years, says that this is not about Bellamy, but about Green."

"Green told us the truth at the beginning and then he began to play a game, a scam," Henson says. "He saw Hoffman as a target, a way to get some money."

Sources close to the investigation, who asked not to be identified, said that the DA was set to give Green a lie detector test, but backed off. The defense team then paid for the test and Green "passed with flying colors."

The source said that after Bellamy was released from prison, Green began to call Hoffman, threatening him and demanding more money.

"I'm going to be your worst nightmare," Green allegedly said in a voice mail message left for Hoffman. "What goes around comes around, and you're going to see what I'm all about."

The source added that Green said that he would implicate Hoffman to the assistant district attorney if Hoffman did not get more money. Hoffman then reportedly hung up on him.

Bellamy, meanwhile, seems sure that he will remain out of prison after his hearing.

"I know I'm innocent," he told reporters. "I didn't murder nobody."

Green, who admits that he was "playing" the defense team all along, now understands that he was playing a dangerous game.

"I have no knowledge of who killed James Abbott," he says. "Hoffman made me feel so sorry for Bellamy. I still believe the kid is innocent, and I wanted to help, but I never should have perjured myself to do it."

"The DA offered me immunity from a perjury charge if I tell the truth on November 13, and that's what I am going to do. I am going to make this right."

"Everybody in Rockaway knows that peoples pull scams," he said. "They don't care about that. What they care about is that a man is not an informer, and I am not. I will make that clear at the court hearing."

What is clear is that Green may be attempting to continue his scam. In a sworn deposition to the district attorney on October 8," Green said that the defense team, including Hoffman and Henson, fed him information that he used to fake the tape.

"That any factual information contained on the tape that relates to the homicide of James Abbott … is information I personally provided to him as it was told to me by retired police detective Edward Henson, retired FBI agent Joe O'Brien and Kareem Bellamy's attorney, Thomas Hoffman, Green said in the sworn statement.

On November 5, however, he told this reporter that none of those men had any knowledge that the tape was falsified until after Bellamy was released from prison. It will be difficult for the district attorney and the judge to filter out the truth from all of Green's statements, one legal expert said this week.

Because Hoffman may be called as a witness at the upcoming hearing, Judge Blumenthal has relieved him of his duties as Bellamy's lawyer and has appointed public defender Steven Silberblatt as his attorney.

Silberblatt has a short time to get ready for the hearing next week, and has been interviewing all of the parties concerned. "Green's story [about the tape] doesn't make sense," he said. "Green didn't even know Hoffman when he told Henson his story. I feel like I'm not only representing Bellamy, but Hoffman, Henson and even Judge Blumenthal."

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