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Verdict expected later this month as defense rests in Bell trial

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Attorneys for Detectives Gescard Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper ended their four-day defense before Queens Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman by moving to have the criminal charges dropped, but the judge, who will be deciding the non-jury trial, denied the motion.

The lawyers contended that the detectives, who were part of an undercover team investigating suspected drug and prostitution operations within the Kalua Cabaret on Nov. 25, 2006, were not reckless when they and two other partners fired 50 shots at Bell's Nissan Altima after it collided with an unmarked police van at the corner of Liverpool Street and 94th Avenue.

The detectives have said they thought Bell, 23, and his friends Joesph Guzman, 32, and Trent Benefield, 24, who were both injured in the barrage and arrested, were armed, but no weapon was found.

Last March, a grand jury indicted Oliver, who fired 31 shots, and Isnora, who opened fire first and shot 11 times, on charges of manslaughter, reckless endangerment and assault, while Cooper was charged with reckless endangerment. Officer Michael Carey, who shot three times, and detective Paul Headley, who fired once, were not charged.

Prosecutors claimed the officers were reckless as several witnesses, including Benefield and Guzman, testified before the court that they never heard police commands or saw a badge.

The officers did not take the stand in their own defense, but prosecutors submitted transcripts of their 2007 grand jury testimony, in which they recollected the events of the 4 a.m. shooting.

Attorneys were expected to give their closing arguments early next week, according to sources familiar with both sides. Although the case is coming to a close soon, the sources said they expect the judge to delay a decision for two weeks because of concerns about the possibility of protests.

The NYPD will be under tight constraints next week because of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to New York, the sources said.

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