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SEAN BELL TRIAL STARTS

February 26, 2008

Fiancee gives tearful testimony in Sean Bell case

Sean Bell and Nicole Paultre

“In the morgue” — that was where a sobbing Nicole Paultre Bell said she saw her fiance on what would have been their wedding day, as she testified in a Queens courtroom about the death of Sean Bell.

Paultre Bell, 23, the first witness in the trial of three detectives accused of playing a role in Bell’s death on Nov. 25, 2006, took almost a half minute to compose herself Monday as she recalled seeing his bullet-ridden body at Jamaica Hospital.

For much of the 20 minutes she was on the witness stand, Paultre Bell seemed composed as Assistant District Attorney Peter Reese questioned her in State Supreme Court about her relationship with Bell. But when Reese asked her about getting a call that Bell had been shot outside a Jamaica strip club and then having to see his body to identify him, the mother of two broke down.

Her testimony followed more than two hours of opening arguments in the trial of detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper in the shooting of Bell outside the Kalua Cabaret. Oliver and Isnora are charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter and face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Cooper is charged only with the misdemeanor offense of reckless endangerment.

Oliver, who fired his weapon 31 times and Isnora, who discharged his gun 11 times, are also accused of assault for shooting Bell’s friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. Bell, 23, and his friends were at the Kalua club for his bachelor party before his wedding later that day.

The case is being tried without a jury before Justice Arthur J. Cooperman.

“What happened was carelessness verging on incompetence,” Executive Assistant District Attorney Charles Testagrossa said about the cops in his opening statement.

In describing the officers’ actions as more than just mistakes of judgment, Testagrossa described how the police and Bell’s group of friends were on a collision course that resulted in the frenzy of 50 shots fired by all officers outside the club. The prosecutor said police didn’t plan well while trying to ferret out prostitution, drugs and guns at city clubs.

Isnora, who was working undercover in the club, didn’t properly show his badge to Bell and his friends as they tried to leave the area by car, Testagrossa said.

But in his opening statement, Isnora’s attorney, Anthony Ricco, said Bell was angry, drunk and out of control when he left the club about 4 a.m.

The Kalua, said Ricco, was a place where men went to “watch women shake their booty and demonstrate a twisted sense of sexual prowess.

“Money was flowing and the bar was hopping,” said Ricco.

He said Bell got into an angry confrontation outside the club with a man in a black sport utility vehicle, who some witnesses thought might have had a gun.

“‘I’ll take that gun from you, I will — — you up, and I will take that gun from you,'” Bell said to the SUV driver, according to Ricco.

Ricco and the other defense attorneys — James Cullerton and Paul Martin — insisted in their openings that the cops thought someone in Bell’s entourage had a gun. The officers then fired in self-defense when they thought Guzman was going for a gun.

Martin said Cooper fired four shots and only was unsteady when he shot out the window of an Airtrain station.

“He doesn’t even belong here,” said Martin.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. somethinglikearapper permalink
    February 26, 2008 8:53 pm

    I hope she gets Justice

    Can I be added to the blogger roll….

    http://somethinglikearapper.wordpress.com

  2. February 27, 2008 3:20 am

    I wish the death penalty or rotting in prison on no one, but I do hope that justice is served in this case. I’ve really tried to look at both sides and there’s just no reason for that many shots to be fired.

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