2011-01-14 / Front Page

Bellamy Free Pending Decision

By Howard Schwach

Kareem Bellamy, left, with public defender Steven Silberblatt. Kareem Bellamy, left, with public defender Steven Silberblatt. Convicted murderer Kareem Bellamy will remain free until at least April, pending an appellate court ruling on his 1995 conviction for the murder of James Abbott on Beach 47 Street on April 9, 1994, according to a December 23 ruling by State Supreme Court Justice Joel Blumenfeld.

“Bellamy is still living in Rockaway, awaiting the appellate court decision that will either send him back to prison or put the ball in the District Attorney’s court to either give him a new trial or to release him,” said Steven Silberblatt, his legal aid attorney who is assisting the appeals bureau in Bellamy’s appeal.

“The appellate division hasn’t responded yet on the District Attorney’s appeal [of the decision to grant Bellamy a new trial] because it’s a very complex case, far from the ordinary. As far as I know, it hasn’t even set a date for oral arguments, something it typically does before issuing a decision.” Silberblatt said that the office of District Attorney Richard Brown recently moved to strike the court papers offered by the public defender’s office, although he does not yet know the grounds the DA has for striking his appeals bureau’s answer.

In July of 2008, Blumenfeld vacated Bellamy’s conviction because the court was provided with new evidence that pointed to the guilt of another man, Levon (Ishmael) Melvin, in the stabbing murder.

At the time that the new evidence, which was in the form of a tape that was purported to be the voice of Melvin admitting to a Rockaway murder on that date, 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 of 2008, Judge Blumenfeld 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 taken many twists and turns. Charges and counter-charges have been made by prosecutors; by Michael Green, the man who made the tape; by Melvin, who 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.

Prosecutor Brad Leventhal has been pushing hard to send Bellamy back to prison without a new trial, based on the fact that the tape, the new evidence that freed the convicted man in the first place, was bogus.

Silberblatt argued that the evidence provided during the hearing, the bogus tape notwithstanding, proved that his client was innocent of the charges and should be given a new trial.

Blumenfeld agreed and ordered a new trial in January of 2010.

Brown’s office appealed, and it is that decision on which the parties wait.

Bellamy’s next hearing in Queens Supreme Court is set for June 22.

Should the appeals court make its decision prior to that date, however, Bellamy may well be either back in prison, serving the remainder of his term, or awaiting a new trial.

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