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"Just Us" Dept. won't charge Sean Bell's killers




Cops in Sean Bell Shooting Won't Face Federal Civil Rights Charges
Justice Department says insufficient evidence to proceed

Updated 6:55 PM EST, Tue, Feb 16, 2010

The officers who gunned down an unarmed Sean Bell on the morning of his wedding won't face federal civil rights charges, sources familiar with the case told NBC New York.

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn announced their findings Tuesday. U.S. prosecutors reviewed the case after the officers were acquitted in April 2008 in a state trial in Queens.

In a statement, the Justice Department said "there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges" against the officers.

"Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids.... Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation," the statement explained.

The family of Sean Bell said they were disappointed by the decision.

It's uncommon for U.S. prosecutors to file civil rights charges against police officers, especially those who have been acquitted in lower courts.

The apparent decision not to charge the three detectives in this case is thus not surprising, but it is nonetheless disappointing for the family who lost the 23-year-old Bell to a hail of 50 police bullets just hours before he was supposed to walk down the aisle with fiancée Nicole Paultre-Bell.

"They said they were limited by statutes and evidence," a distraught William Bell, Sean's father, told the Daily News after he met with prosecutors. "I'm not a lawyer, what can I say. My son's dead, and they can't do anything about it. He can't even rest in peace."

The Nov. 25. 2006, shooting sparked massive outcry across the nation, with civil-rights advocates leading protests and demanding what they perceived to be just convictions for the detectives who shot and killed Bell. Bell had been outside a strip club with two friends after his bachelor's party when undercover cops investigating reports of prostitution at the club apparently misheard their conversation and thought one had a gun.

No weapon was found.

The would-be groom's friends, who were seriously wounded in the fusillade, have led the charge for retribution in conjunction with Bell's family.

The Rev. Al Sharpton voiced "extreme disappointment" over the decision.  In a statement he said "Even though two of the three officers in question were Black we will not stop our pursuit of justice in this matter until every measure in the criminal and civil arena has been exhausted. Fifty shots on an unarmed man who engaged in no crime is intolerable."

But Michael Palladino, the President of the Detectives’ Endowment Association,  said he was "gratified" by the Justice Department's decision.

"The Bell family’s disappointment is a result of the misinformation disseminated by Al Sharpton from the very beginning.  He made this case into something that it was not," Palladino said.

---------- Oh, wait, he must have been an in-sur-gent. ----------

Entry #377


Rick GComment by Rick G - February 20, 2010, 11:35 am
If they keep poking the tiger, they're going to get bit.
Comment by jim695 - February 20, 2010, 2:21 pm
Outrageous - yet typical.

Had Sean Bell been the son of a congressman or senator, the officers who murdered him would now be behind bars awaiting certain convictions and guaranteed life sentences. But he wasn't the son of a congressman or senator - he was merely an ordinary citizen, and therefore was perfectly expendable in favor of headlines and furthering the careers of uniformed thugs who can't wait to learn what it feels like to take someone's life.

The "reasoning" behind the Justice Department's reluctance to prosecute fellow members of the law enforcement community is this: "We can't hold police officers and prosecutors to the same standard as that to which we hold the general public because, if we did so, they would become afraid to continue to do their jobs aggressively." What this means is that the people of this country are held to much higher legal, moral and behavioral standards than those charged with our protection. Two or more police officers can simply state, "We believed he was armed; we were just doing our jobs." Those first five words are iron-clad civil armor for members of the police community, but are a pathetically insufficient and ineffective defense for any citizen who uses a firearm to protect his home or his family from armed intruders. Prosecutors demand proof that such "ordinary" people under threat of bodily harm have exhausted any and all alternatives before resorting to the use of deadly force, such as escape or surrender.

Cops are trained to overreact in all situations, and to do it with overwhelming force, lest one of them be hurt in the confrontations they bring about. They are as sacred as the cows in India and must not be harmed, nor their actions subjected to even the slightest public scrutiny. Their words and testimony are not to be questioned, for by virtue of the badges we bestow upon them, their version of events in any case will, and must, nullify facts and truth alike. A police officer once told me (when I challenged him for turning left at a red light and nearly causing an accident), "I'm a cop. My job is to enforce the law; yours is to obey it."

Their function has become one of protecting themselves and each other. Courts all across America have long held that police officers have no obligation to put themselves in harm's way to protect a citizen who is in danger of bodily harm. This is why the victims of the Columbine High School massacre were left to bleed for three hours before police entered the building.

If what happened to Sean Bell doesn't fill you with terror, it should. The same thing could easily happen to you or a loved one at any time. If they happen to have the wrong address typed on a no-knock warrant, they can blow your front door off and shoot you and your spouse while you sleep in your bed. Ridiculous? Not at all - this has happened at least three times in three different states. In each instance, all of the uniformed killers were exonerated.

If we defend ourselves against criminals and terrorists, we have a small chance of escaping with our lives. But how do we defend ourselves against licensed killers who carry gold-plated Get-Out-of-Jail-Free cards? I believe it was the United States Attorney General who recently proclaimed, "No one in America is above the law." He obviously has never found himself on the business end of law enforcement. But then, he never would have been, being a club member himself.

I've said it before, and I stand by it - Our police forces have grown to become the largest, best-organized and best-equipped criminal gang in the entire country. If you should harm one of them, the rest will hunt you down like an animal, and they'll kill you if they so choose. Wouldn't it be nice if they would afford US the same level of effort and protection when we're the victims of crime?

Comment by GASMETERGUY - February 20, 2010, 2:41 pm
I agree that the police are getting too much power. They need to be muzzled and soon. Here in Tennessee they park on I-40, stop who they wish, and search the travelers. Why?
Rick GComment by Rick G - February 20, 2010, 6:49 pm
The Rule of Law is the glue that holds a civil society together. The 21st Century has marked our ungluing.

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