2011-09-02 / Top Stories

Convicted In 1994, Bellamy Free At Last

DA Declines Further Prosecution
By Howard Schwach

Bellamy with detective Ed Henson (left) and ex-FBI agent Joe O’Brien, the two men who first found the “new evidence” that freed Bellamy. Bellamy with detective Ed Henson (left) and ex-FBI agent Joe O’Brien, the two men who first found the “new evidence” that freed Bellamy. After 15 years of living as a convicted killer, Rockaway resident Kareem Bellamy will be free from the charge forever after he next appears in court, which is now set for September 27.

On August 10, the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, decided not to hear an appeal from a lower court ruling that found that Bellamy at least deserved a new trial.

In May of last year, the Appellate Court for the Second Circuit had backed Queens Supreme Court Judge Joel Blumenfeld, who threw out Bellamy’s conviction for a deadly stabbing he says he didn’t commit.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, in the final review step available to his office, petitioned the Court of Appeals for leave to appeal the second circuit’s decision.

Bellamy hugs public defender Steven Silberblatt, who has been his attorney for the past year. Bellamy hugs public defender Steven Silberblatt, who has been his attorney for the past year. In a terse, one-line decision, the high court has denied that appeal.

“In the case of The People versus Kareem Bellamy, an application for leave to appeal is denied,” the court said.

Legal experts said that the court’s refusal to take the case marks the end of the line for Brown and his prosecutor, Brad Leventhal.

“He has to either retry him or let him go,” one expert said.

Now, Brown has decided that Bellamy’s case for murder 15 years ago cannot be prosecuted successfully. It only waits for his next court date of the dismissal to become official.

In a statement issued to The Wave on Tuesday, Brown said, “Kareem Bellamy was convicted by a jury of Murder in the Second Degree fifteen years ago. That conviction was upheld on both direct appeal and collateral review — and in a federal habeas corpus proceeding, as well. Bellamy has now been freed from that conviction based solely on a fraud perpetrated against the post conviction hearing court. He has not been exonerated. Sadly, rather than reject that fraud, the post conviction hearing court embraced it and left the case unprosecutable.

“Appellate review of the post-conviction hearing court’s decision, based largely on credibility, was very limited. We believe those limitations constrained the Court of Appeals decision not to grant leave and the Appellate Division’s decision in upholding the post conviction hearing court. We accept the decisions of the Court of Appeals and Appellate Division.”

With no new prosecution possible, Bellamy will go free.

A jury found Bellamy, now 43, guilty of the 1994 stabbing death of James Abbott in Far Rockaway.

He’s been free on $150,000 bail since 2008, when Blumenfeld vacated the conviction.

Blumenfeld sided with Bellamy’s defense team after it put forth an informant who claimed he’d spoken to someone named Ishmael who confessed to the Abbott murder.

The informant provided a taperecording of that conversation, which was revealed to be a fake after Blumenfeld had already ruled.

Prosecutors tried to get him to reverse his ruling, claiming the defense tried to deceive the court, but the judge refused.

A four-judge Appellate Division panel upheld Blumenfeld’s decision in May. It said the jury might have acquitted Bellamy if it had heard the informant’s testimony and the tape.

“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 defendant’s later recantation of those statements,” the panel wrote.

Steven Silberblatt, Bellamy’s legal aid attorney, said that he had long believed that Bellamy’s case was unprosecutable at this point.

“The DA lost in front of three courts,” he said. “He lost in front of Blumenfeld, he lost in the second circuit, and now he lost before the Court of Appeals. He would have to prosecute him again for depraved indifference murder, which is what he was convicted of, and there is no way he could get a conviction on that anymore.”

Former NYPD detective Ed Henson, who has been working on the case as a private detective for more than two years, and who turned up the new evidence, said from his Florida home that he is “relieved” at the DA’s decision not to prosecute.

“There is a God,” Henson said.

Bellamy is living in Rockaway with relatives and seeking employment.

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