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Keep Bell trial in boro: DA

Brown submitted his own data to counter the defense motion for a change of venue in the criminal case of undercover NYPD Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper filed in State Supreme Court's Appellate Division in Brooklyn last Thursday. Three weeks ago the detectives' attorneys asked the court to change the site of the trial from Queens to Albany, citing a survey of 600 residents which showed 62.9 percent of thought the Nov. 25, 2006 shooting of the Rockaway bridegroom was unjustified due to a "tidal wave" of negative media coverage.Brown dismissed the defense's statistics as not indicating any possible effect on potential jurors."That's not the case here. It's fair to say that opinions here in Queens are equally divided," he said at a news conference last Thursday at Queens Criminal Court.Bell's fiancee, Nicole Paultre-Bell, also submitted a letter to the appellate court asking the panel to reject the motion, saying the move to Albany would be stressful for the slain Richmond Hill native's friends and family."[A]ny change of venue will clearly be a hardship on our families," she wrote in the three page letter.Bell, 23, along with his friends Trent Benefield, 23, and Joseph Guzman, 31, were shot in a hail of 50 police bullets outside the Kalua Cabaret in Jamaica. Bell, who was going to marry his fiancee that morning, was killed and the other two were arrested and wounded.Oliver, Isnora, Cooper, and their partners Mike Carey and Paul Headley claimed to have opened fire because they overheard the trio talk about having a gun, according to the criminal complaint. It was later determined that Bell and his friends were not carrying a weapon.Oliver, who fired 31 shots, and Isnora, who fired 11 shots, according to the complaint, were arraigned in March on charges of manslaughter. Cooper, who fired four shots, was charged with reckless endangerment, the complaint said. Their trial was tentatively set for Feb. 4.When the detectives' lawyers submitted their motion Jan. 4 to move the trial to Albany, they presented the court with a survey conducted by Virgina-based Luntz Maslansky Stratedic Research."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.Brown filed a 74-page response to the defense motion that cited a recent study undertaken by the Sienna Research Institute that polled 622 Queens residents. That survey found that 64.5 percent of residents have not formed an opinion about the case based on media coverage and 62.5 percent agreed that anything they had learned outside of the courtroom was not evidence."I know of no reason whatsoever why we can't pick a fair jury here in Queens County," Brown said.Brown criticized the attorneys' attempt to sway the appellate court's decision with a poll, which was also used during the criminal trial for the Police Department officers who shot Bronx resident Amadou Diallo in 1999."The public has been presented with the widest array of stories, opinions, and editorials with regard to this case, many of which vigorously support the defense position and the vast majority of which comprise objective, fair and balanced reporting," he wrote in his argument. "The public furor in (the Diallo case) over the shooting was on an entirely different scale."Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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