2011-06-03 / Community

Bellamy Ruling Upheld


Kareem Bellamy, left, with public defender Steven Silberblatt. Kareem Bellamy, left, with public defender Steven Silberblatt. By Howard Schwach

The Appellate Division for the Second District on May 24 upheld a 2008 decision by Supreme Court Judge Joel Blumenfeld, which vacated the murder conviction of Rockaway resident Kareem Bellamy.

Bellamy had been in prison up to August of 2008, after being convicted of murder in the second degree and weapons charges in relation to the Arverne stabbing death of James Abbott in 1994.

“The Supreme Court properly determined that the likely cumulative effect of the newlydiscovered evidence, including the informant’s original statements to investigators and counsel concerning Ishmael’s alleged confession, his recantation of those statements and the testimony concerning the faked confession tape would have been a verdict more favorable to the defendant,” the three-member appeals court ruled. “A reasonable jury could find, as the Supreme Court did here, that the informant’s original unsolicited implication of Ishmael was truthful regardless of the informant’s later recantation of those statements. Moreover, the fact that the informant implicated Ishmael and an accomplice, who were the same people implicated on a police report contemporaneous to the homicide, could raise a reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds, especially given the less than overwhelming evidence against the defendant at trial.”

Steven Silberblatt, Bellamy’s public defender attorney, told The Wave that there are three things that District Attorney Richard Brown can do when Bellamy next appears in court on June 22, now that the second circuit has agreed with Judge Blumenfeld.

“Brown can ask for leave to appeal to the Appellate Division [the state’s highest court] and hope that it reverses Blumenfeld, but it is doubtful that such a motion would be granted,” Silberblatt said. “He can simply dismiss the case right there. Or, he can decide to retry Bellamy.”

Silberblatt said that he is “not in the prediction business,” and declined to speculate on which way Brown would go.

“It is hard to believe that taxpayer’s money would be well-spent in pursuing a new trial,” Silberblatt added. “But it is their right to retry. That the DA is pushing all out to maintain the guilty verdict, to me, is pure vanity.”

Detective Ed Henson, who first turned over the new evidence that pointed to another killer, thinks that the DA will “try and save face” in the light of the decision and say that Bellamy can’t be retried.

“They went after me and they went after [Thomas] Hoffman [Bellamy’s first attorney], they went after Blumenfeld by trying to keep him from being reappointed. They should be going after the real killer,” Henson added. “They don’t want to deal with the truth that Bellamy was never guilty and they tried and convicted the wrong man.”

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 Henson had 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 nowinfamous tape; by prosecutor Brad Leventhal, who had accused Hoffman and Henson of feeding Green information about Melvin to make the phony tape; and by Hoffman and Henson, who say they had no knowledge that the tape was bogus until after Bellamy was released.

Kevin Ryan, a spokesperson for District Attorney Brown, said on Tuesday that his office “is still reviewing the court’s decision.”

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