Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”


From the Sean Bell Notebook

“Strategizing for Operation Shutdown”
(The Summation)
by Rev. Herbert D. Daughtry, Sr.

Reading the account of how and why the May 7th action occurred and what happened, more than ever, I am glad I have disciplined myself to write my own history. Who knows better than I, why, how and what happened where I am involved in making the event happen.

I heard on Rev. Sharpton’s broadcast Saturday, May 9th, Mr. Paul Washington of the Vulcan Society, express disappointment because of what happened at the Brooklyn Bridge. Yet, what happened at the Bridge is precisely what we had planned. We had told participants what would happen before we got to the Bridge. It was never our intention to cross the Bridge or get arrested at the Bridge. We had intended to pause at the Bridge to tie up traffic. We knew Rev. Sharpton had tied up the Bridge on the Manhattan side. Our objective was to tie up as many streets and bridges as we could and get arrested at the Manhattan Bridge. But more about that later. Let me first back up and start in the courtroom.

On Monday, April 14, 2008, I arrived at the court at 7:15am. I had breakfast, an egg and home fries, at the restaurant across the street from the court. (Later, I became ill. I believe it was due to my departing from my usual breakfast.) While waiting in the restaurant, Isnora came in surrounded by hefty white police officers. It was the closest view I had gotten of him. He was chucky with a round baby face.

Around 8:30am, Rev. Sharpton, Attorneys Michael Hardy and Sanford Rubenstein, Dominick, Sharpton’s daughter, Rachel, Sharpton’s public relations coordinator had assembled in front of the restaurant. Rev. Sharpton inquired the whereabouts of Nicole. “She's on the way,” came the response. We crossed the street as Nicole drove up. As she disembarked from her car, we went to meet her in the middle of the street. She was smiling faintly. She embraced everyone and we started toward the courthouse. The press had crowded on the sidewalk. We walked passed the throng, up the steps, through the doors, passed security and then the last stationary TV and still camera into the courtroom.
The Bell family was already seated. The judge had not arrived, which allowed people to stand around talking softly. Suspense was in the air. Consistently, at 9:00am the booming voice announced court was now in session.

All three (3) defense attorneys, James Culleton, representing Det. Michael Oliver, Paul Martin, representing Det. Marc Cooper and Anthony Ricco, representing Det. Gescard Isnora, repeated the argument they had been making from the beginning of the trial. They claimed the officers identified themselves, took cover and fired their weapons. Detective Marc Cooper, who claimed he had been hit by the car driven by Sean Bell and who fired 4 times, fired first because he thought Joe Guzman had raised his arm as if he had a gun. Isnora, who fired 11 times and Oliver, who fired 31 times and whose bullets caused the death of Sean, claimed that they thought they were been fired upon. And the attorneys highlighted the criminal background and anti-social history of all Bells friends.

The black (pigmentation that is) attorney, Mr. Ricco, was particularly vicious in his attacks, not only on Sean Bell and his friends, but also on black leaders, Bell supporters, black attorneys, the black community and the even the press. His insensitivity was cruel and malicious. His depiction of Bell and friends was unnecessary and drove a dagger into the heart of the Bell family. Daily I watched the family writhing in pain. This wasn’t a jury trial, the judge had the material, and there was no need for the vulgar characterization and graphic depictions. Attorney Culleton called Bell’s friends “a parade of convicted felons, “crack dealers” and “men who were no strangers to weapons.” Another attorney said, “they sat on the witness stand in rented suits,” borrowed suits and cried crocodile tears, their image was prepared for the court” in fact it was said of Joe Guzman, who was shot multiple times still have 4 bullets in his body and will never be the same, “Joe Guzman is the reason we are here today.” What an incredible statement, I thought to myself. This man, with one of his friends dead, another wounded, having committed no crime, sitting in a car of which no weapon or illegal substance were found, trying to get home, ends up with a body full of bullets, and he’s the cause of it all.

I thought that they overplayed some of the details from the crime scene., i.e. bloodstained clothing, blood on the seat of the car, the weapons, not only were these shown on a huge screen against the wall, but they were shown from many angles and the focus was sustained for long periods of time.

In the afternoon, the Assistant DA, Charles Testagrossa, argued that Isnora account was a fabrication and argued that the cops used excessive force. He said that Oliver and Isnora did not believe the threat of return fire was real because they did not take cover.

When it was all over, Judge Arthur Cooperman announced that he would render his decision on April 25th. So, just like that, after months, the long awaited trial was over. It was all in the hands or head of a tall, long-faced white man. Or was it in the hands of God? Time will tell.

At lunch time press conference, Mr. Bell angrily asked, “Why isn’t the victim’s family being given consideration?” Attorney Hardy made the argument he had been making almost every day at the press conference. The defense case is without merit as evidence by their focus on the background of the victims and their friends. The DA has met the burden of proof. For the first time I spoke to the press. I assailed Mr. Ricco for his vile, vicious portrayal of the victim and their friends. After the trial, Mrs. Bell thanked the DA. There had been questions raised by the Attorney Neville Mitchell, that the DA was presenting a weak case.

Significantly, the biggest concern expressed by white leaders and opinion makers was what will happen if the decision exonerates the cops. Rev. Sharpton, I think, gave the appropriate response. “First, we believe that the officers will be found guilty. Even so, why come to us. We are the victims. Go to the police officers; ask them what they will do.”

The usual, cops can-do-no-wrong crowd had immediately began the defense of the cops. The cops they said we justified in firing 50 bullets in a vehicle containing 3 unarmed black men because they thought one of them had a gun. How many times have I hear that argument? “I thought he had a gun, or a shiny object, or he went into his pocket.” And, incredibly, it works for them. Usually, there is an acquittal. No matter how clearly the killing was unjustified, all cops have to do is say the aforementioned. Then they question the background of the victims if there is nothing “shady” you make something up or connect the victims to friends and or relatives who do have criminal or anti-social backgrounds.

So, we will wait with batted breath for April 25th.

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