2009-12-11 / Top Stories

Attorney Seeks New Trial For Bellamy

Avers Does Not Matter Whether 'Confession Tape' Is Real
By Howard Schwach

Kareem Bellamy and his mother. Kareem Bellamy and his mother. Legal Aid attorney Stephen Sil - berblatt has taken his final shot at freeing a Far Rockaway man convicted of an Arverne murder 14 years ago in advance of January 14, the day that a Queens Criminal Court judge is scheduled to decide his fate.

Kareem Bellamy was freed from prison in July of 2008 when Tom Hoffman, who was then his attorney, and Ed Hensen, a private det - ective who was once a premier housing police detective in Rocka - way, found a man who said he knew who actually killed James Abbott, the man for whose murder Bellamy had been convicted.

A "confession tape," in which a man named Levon "Ishmael" Mel - vin talked about the murder, was presented in court before Judge Joel Blumenthal.

That tape, added to other material that tended to show that Bellamy may well be innocent, led to Blum - en thal vacating that conviction and ordering Bellamy released from prison pending a hearing on whe - her or not he would face a new trial.

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 prof- fered 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."

Michael Green, the man who made the tape that freed Kareem Bellamy from prison and who later said that the tape was bogus. Green is central to the effort to get Bellamy a new trial. Michael Green, the man who made the tape that freed Kareem Bellamy from prison and who later said that the tape was bogus. Green is central to the effort to get Bellamy a new trial. But Michael Green, the informant who provided the tape to Hoffman and Hensen, later 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."

In addition, Melvin, a Rockaway man who police thought may have been the killer in 1994, came forward to say that it was not his voice on the tape and that he was innocent of killing Abbott.

In an interview with The Wave, Melvin charged that Hensen, who had something against him for years, made up a witness named Anna Simmons, who called police in 1994 and said that Melvin and one of his friends murdered Abbott.

Charges and counter-charges have been made by prosecutors; by Green, the man who made the bogus tape; by Melvin; 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 re - leased.

Now, Silberblatt says that even though he believes the tape was not faked, it really does not matter; that Bellamy should go free even if the tape is bogus.

In order to put Bellamy back in prison, Silberblatt argues in his court papers, "the prosecution must demonstrate, by clear and convincing evident that all three of the following propositions are true: That the confession tape was in fact fraudulent in some way; that this fraud, if it existed, was perpetrated with the knowledge of and at the instigation of the defense team representing Mr. Bellamy; and, that without this evidence the decision of the court would have been different."

Silberblatt argues that Michael Green, the man who first brought the tape forward, testified in court that it was real and then told prosecutors that it was bogus, is such an unreliable witness that that the court should not believe him about the veracity of the tape.

To prove that point, Silberblatt introduced into testimony a taped interview that Green gave to The Wave in November of last year, in which Green said that neither Hoffman nor Hensen knew that the tape was phony until after Bellamy was released.

In court, Green admitted that he had lied to everyone except a Wave editor, because he wanted everyone in Rock - away to know that he was not a snitch, as he had been portrayed in the daily newspapers.

Silberblatt argues that Green said that the tape was phony because he was afraid of the prosecutors, since they had control over him due to his other criminal activities; and he was scared of Melvin, who he feared might use "street justice" to punish him for talking.

"The prosecution claims that Mr. Green's perjury at the original motion [hearing] invalidates the court's decision," Silberblatt says. "If this were so, the perjury committed by Mr. Green in his affidavits and adopted in their motion by the prosecution should invalidate their motion to reargue [Bellamy's release]."

"Mr. Bellamy urges this court to recognize that the force of the original report, even standing alone without the tape, is newly discovered evidence which, if heard by a jury, would likely result in a more favorable verdict for Mr. Bellamy," Silverblatt concludes. "As the court recognized in its original opinion, this is clearly a matter for the jury to decide. Whether or not the court concludes the prosecution has met its burden of demonstrating the illegitimacy of the tape, the introduction of … The Wave interview by Mr. Green, in which the attorneys for Mr. Bellamy were exonerated strengthens the original decision to grant Mr. Bellamy a new trial."

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