During his impassioned three-hour closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Charles Testagrossa blasted the attorneys representing Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper for trying to downplay the officers' roles in the firing of 50 bullets on Nov. 25, 2006. "The defense would have you to believe that the number of gunshots are irrelevant," he told Queens Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman, who said he would issue a verdict in the non-jury trial on April 25. Speaking of Oliver, he said "31 shots at unarmed inhabitants in a vehicle speaks of rage."The three officers are accused of several charges, including manslaughter and reckless endangerment, in the fatal shooting of Bell, 23, and the wounding of his two friends outside a Jamaica strip club.Earlier in the day the defense team urged the judge to disregard the testimony from several of the prosecution's 52 witnesses, including the two men who survived the barrage, Trent Benefield, 24, and Joseph Guzman, 32. Anthony Ricco, the Harlem-based attorney who represented Isnora, placed blame for the entire incident on Guzman, who the officers thought had a gun."He was the catalyst for the events. He's the reason we're out here today," the attorney said, which drew moans from the audience inside the courtroom.Ricco also asked the judge to be lenient on Isnora, who he claimed grew up in a rough neighborhood in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and joined the NYPD to take a stand against the gang violence he was accustomed to seeing. Testagrossa refuted those claims by contending that even people who grow up with noble intentions can commit serious criminal acts.The detectives sat silently as both sides made their final arguments. They did not take the stand in their own defense because prosecutors read to the judge their March 2007 testimony before a grand jury.On the other side of the court room, Bell's parents and fiancee Nicole Paultre-Bell, who were in courtroom for the trial's 28 days, were in tears as the incident was described over and over in the summations. In his grand jury testimony, Isnora claimed to have seen Bell, who was celebrating his bachelor party with a group of friends, get into an argument with a man near an SUV around 4 a.m. and allegedly heard Guzman shout, "Got to get my gat," which is slang for "gun." Isnora and his partners followed Bell, Guzman and Benefield to the bridegroom's Nissan Altima, which was parked on the corner of Liverpool Street and 94th Avenue. Bell rammed his car into the detective.The sedan then struck an undercover minivan which Oliver was driving. Isnora, Oliver, Cooper and partners Officer Michael Carey and Detective Paul Headley opened fire, killing Bell on his wedding day and seriously wounding Guzman and Benefield. No weapon was ever found.The shooting sparked numerous protest within southeast Queens by residents across the city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters last week that the city is prepared for more demonstrations following the verdict next week.Last March, a grand jury indicted Isnora, who fired first and shot 11 times, and Oliver, who fired 31 shots and reloaded once, on charges of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment. Cooper, who fired four shots, including one that hit a nearby AirTrain station, according to police, was charged with reckless endangerment. Carey, who fired three times, and Headley who fired once, were not indicted.T
©2008 Community News Group
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