The Rockaway Beat
Last week, I started providing a scorecard for those characters involved in the Kareem Bellamy case – a man convicted of depraved indifference murder in 1965 who was freed in 2009 because of new evidence. That evidence later turned out to be bogus.
Michael (Country Mike) Green: Green is perhaps the most compelling character of the bunch. His part in this morality play began when Henson and O’Brien were in the Edgemere Project looking for a lead to Anna Simmons. The two investigators spread the word and Green soon came riding up to them on his bicycle. Henson testified that he had known Green well when Henson patrolled the projects. Green indicated that he had some information for the investigators and that he knew who killed Abbott. Henson told Green to go to his apartment. At the first meeting, Green told them, “Ishmael Melvin killed that kid.” He explained that he knew this from Melvin himself, who had been his friend for 40 years. Green testified in court, “I asked him what happened, so then he started to explain to me that this guy, James Abbott, was messing with his girl, his girlfriend. And so, he was like, I spotted him. Him and Turk was riding passed him in the 40’s and they made a U turn and came back, and was getting out to talk to the guy and the guy started running off his mouth and he said that he stabbed him.” The two immediately put Green in touch with Hoffman and the lawyers scheduled a deposition. Green was persuasive. Green told Hoffman that his wife and family were in danger, and Hoffman gave him money to get them out of Rock-away. The money, court documents show, was used on a gambling spree in Atlantic City. Eventually, Melvin found out about Green’s tape and contacted the DA to say that it was not his voice on the tape. Green was given a lie detector test and he passed. Later, possibly badly frightened by Melvin, he recanted and testified that the tape was faked. The DA gave him immunity and put him on the stand, where he testified (falsely, the court said) that Henson and O’Brien had given him the information so that he could make the tape seem real. The judge did not buy that story. Green came to The Wave for an interview because he wanted everybody in Rockaway to know he was not a snitch, even though he apparently was. While the hearing was going on, Green was arrested for a home assault, but that case seems to be going nowhere. Green remains in Rockaway.
Levon “Ishmael” Melvin: On April 15, 1994, a short time after Abbott’s murder, detectives at the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway got a telephone call from a woman who identified herself as Anna Simmons. She said that he had heard two men who were members of the feared “Regulators” gang bragging about Abbott’s stabbing. She said that the men said that they waited for Abbott to come out of the supermarket and then “snuffed him.” She identified the two men, who she said she knew well, as Rodney Harris and Ishmael, who was probably the head of the gang. She said that she would come into the precinct after she got off work, but never showed up. She was never heard from again and investigators were unable to find her. Other testimony pointed to the probability that Abbott was trying to make time with Yolanda “Yo Yo” Dove, Melvin’s girlfriend. Melvin told The Wave last year that the story is false. He claims that Henson had one of his “crack whores” call the detectives and give a phony name just to get him in trouble. Henson denies this, but says that one of the reasons he took the case more than a year ago is because it was handled so badly by detectives. Simmons was never found and neither Melvin nor Harris was questioned about Simmons’ assertion. Abbott’s sister, Deborah Abbott testified at the hearing that her brother was seeing a woman at the time he was killed and that he was nervous about it. Melvin contends now that he is innocent and has asked to comment in The Wave to prove his innocence. Melvin’s credibility with the judge was not helped when he testified that the Regulators were a dance group. The gang was wellknown, and was the subject of a federal investigation that put several of the gang members in prison for a long time.
Steven Silberblatt: If there is a first responder hero in this story, it is Steven Silberblatt, a long-time public defender. When Michael Green testified that he had been fed information for the phony tape by the defense team, the judge appointed Silberblatt to take over, and he did an amazing job, filing the briefs and making the arguments that led the judge to rule, the bogus tape aside, there were was enough new evidence of Melvin’s involvement in the murder to warrant a new trial for Bellamy. It was a big victory for the hard-working legal aid attorney.
DA Richard Brown and Prosecutor ADA Brad Leventhal. Brown announced shortly after the judge’s ruling three weeks ago that he would immediately appeal the ruling to the higher court. It would be difficult for his office to prosecute Bellamy at a new trial because some of the witnesses have recanted their testimony and others have wandered away into obscurity over the past 15 years. Leventhal, a zealous prosecutor, wanted to prosecute Henson and Hoffman for complicity in the bogus tape, but the judge said that the evidence presented pointed in the other direction, that they had no knowledge that the tape was bogus when they presented it to the court.
Judge Joel Blumenfeld: Blumenfeld made the decision that set Bellamy free more than a year ago and left him free through last month’s ruling. It is clear from his written decision that he believes Bellamy did not get a fair trial in 1995 and that new testimony might well bring a different decision.
Now, we have to wait for the appeals court to rule, and that might well be a long wait.