2009-11-27 / Top Stories

Bellamy Decision Set For January 14

By Howard Schwach

Kareem Bellamy, center flanked by attorney Tom Hoffman (left) and private detective Ed Hensen. Kareem Bellamy, center flanked by attorney Tom Hoffman (left) and private detective Ed Hensen. On December 14, give or take a day or two, Kareem Bellamy will find out whether or not he has to go back to prison to serve the remainder of his 1995 conviction for the murder of James Abbott on Beach 47 Street on April 9, 1994.

In July of last year, Queens Supreme Court Judge Joel Blumenthal vacated Bellamy's conviction because he was brought new evidence that pointed to Bellamy's innocence in the murder.

At that time, Queens 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 Hensen 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."

Since that time, the Bellamy case has become what one court-watcher calls a "soap opera gone mad."

Charges and counter-charges have been made by prosecutors; by Michael Green, the man who made the bogus tape; by Levon "Ishmael" Melvin, whom detectives investigating the crime fifteen years ago thought might have been involved, and whom Green implicated as the murderer on the now-infamous tape; by prosecutor Brad Leventhal, who has accused Hoffman and Hensen of feeding Green information about Melvin to make the phony tape; and by Hoffman and Hensen, who say they had no knowledge that the tape was bogus until after Bellamy was released.

Steven Silberblatt, the Legal Aid attorney assigned to Bellamy, told The Wave this week that he has hopes that Bellamy will not have to go directly back to prison.

"Bellamy is a sweetie-pie," Silber - blatt said. "He hasn't even spit on the street in the time he has been out. He is not angry about what happened to him, about being in jail for 14 years for a crime he did not commit. He makes a very sympathetic defendant."

"This is all up to [Judge] Blumenthal now," he added. "The prosecutors filed their final papers in November. If they rule against us, then Kareem goes right back to jail. If we win, I suppose there will be an appeal and a decision at that level."

He is hoping that Blumenthal sides with Bellamy and orders a new trial on the 1994 murder.

"The recent arguments don't prove that the tape was faked," he said. "The testimony was not probative. You can't take the word of a suspect that he didn't do it. Even if it were faked, the evidence shows that his former attorney and the private detective did not know that. That tape should be heard by a jury."

Silberblatt said that a taped interview with Michael Green by Wave man ag ing editor Howard Schwach was admitted into evidence.

Although Green testified that both the attorney and the private detective knew the tape was a fake, he told The Wave that they did not know until after Melvin came forward to say it was not his voice on the tape.

Silberblatt said that his hopes are high for a new trial.

"Blumenthal is open-minded," he said. "I trust him to do the right thing."

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