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Attorneys representing Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper asked the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court to change the venue of the officers' pending criminal trial to Albany, according to court documents.Citing a November survey of 600 Queens residents, the attorneys argued that the media attention on the officers, who along with their partners Mike Carey and Paul Headley, shot Bell in Jamaica on the morning of his wedding day, has been negative and would compromise the jury."From the very onset of this case...there has been an enormous amount of highly prejudicial local media publicity coming from the printed and broadcast media," the attorneys said in the motion. Oliver, Isnora, Cooper, Carey and Paul Headley fired 50 shots at Sean Bell, a Richmond Hill native, and his friends Joseph Guzman, 31, and Trent Benefield, 23,both of Jamaica, on Nov. 25, 2006, outside the Kaula Cabaret in Jamaica. Bell was killed just hours before he was going to walk down the aisle with his fiancee Nicole Paultre-Bell, 23, while Guzman and Benefield were wounded and arrested.The officers claimed that after they overheard Bell and his friends say they had a gun, the detectives approached their car outside the club and opened fire after Bell's sedan rammed an unmarked police van, according to the criminal complaint. It was later determined that Bell and his friends were not carrying a weapon.The survey, conducted by Virginia-based Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research, found 62.9 percent of Queens residents believed there was no possible justification for the shooting. Rev. Al Sharpton, along with Bell's family and Guzman, blasted the NYPD for attempting to take the case out of the borough and suggested that witnesses would not cooperate if the motion was approved."This is a cheap attempt to play the 'Diallo card,' and to say that the new way for police to duck accountability is to not be tried by the people they police and are paid by is outrageous," Sharpton said in a statement, referring to the 1999 shooting of African immigrant Amadou Diallo in the Bronx.In March Oliver and Isnora were indicted in Queens Criminal court on manslaughter charges stemming from the shooting, while Cooper was charged with reckless endangerment. Their trial court date was tentatively set for Feb. 4.Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said his office would "vigorously" oppose the change of venue. A hearing was scheduled for Jan. 18 at the state Appellate Court in Brooklyn.Sanford Rubenstein, who represents Paultre-Bell, Guzman and Benefield, said the trial should take place in Queens because it was not only the scene of the shooting, it was also where the officers were indicted."It is an insult to the people of Queens to think that out of 2.3 million residents 12 people who can be fair and impartial can't be found," he said in a telephone interview.Rubenstein said the court handling the change of venue appeal was a different division than the one that approved the change of venue for the criminal trial against the NYPD officers who shot and killed Diallo. The four officers were later acquitted of second-degree murder charges and reckless endangerment in an Albany court in February 2000."When the appellate court ruled to change the venue for the Diallo case...the court suggested that it not set a precedent for future cases," Rubenstein said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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