The attorney representing Sean Bell’s family fired back against a report that he had sought a multimillion-dollar paycheck from the lawsuit settlement they reached with the city.
Sanford Rubenstein, the attorney for Nicole Paultre-Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, said he was not paid more than $2 million in a retainer fee for representing his clients in the lawsuit against the NYPD for the 50-shot death of the bridegroom in 2006.
The New York Post reported Friday that Rubenstein was called into a federal judge’s courtroom to discuss the $2.38 million fee he reportedly earned for his services and was forced to reduce the charge by more than 70 percent.
“In response to the concerns expressed by the court, including [Rubenstein’s] failure to maintain contemporaneous time records counsel agree to reduce their fees to $750,000,” Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann said in her decision, according to the Post.
The attorney said the New York Post article did not get the full story correct and that he and co-counsel Michael Hardy always earned only $750,000 for representing the clients.
“The New York Post article is inaccurate,” he told TimesLedger Newspapers Monday.
In July, Bell’s estate was awarded $3.25 million in the settlement following his shooting by New York Police Department officers. Guzman, who was seriously injured during the barrage Nov. 25, 2006, was awarded $3 million and Benefield, who also survived, was awarded $900,000.
Paultre-Bell, who is running for City Council, will be taking her share, roughly $2.5 million, of the settlement and investing it for her and Bell’s daughters, according to Rubenstein.
“These girls are economically secured for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Bell and his friends were celebrating his bachelor party at the now-defunct Kalua Cabaret in Jamaica, where undercover officers were conducting an investigation into suspected drug and prostitution operations. The entourage got into an argument with another patron outside the strip club and an officer claimed to have heard someone say they were going to get a gun.
Bell was in his car with Guzman and Benefield when an unmarked police van pulled up to it and rammed his vehicle into the minivan, prompting five of them to open fire. Bell was killed instantly in the 50-shot onslaught and the other two were injured and arrested. No weapon was found.
Three of the officers were indicted on reckless endangerment and manslaughter charges, but were exonerated in a bench trial in 2008.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@c
©2010 Community News Group
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