Cop-killer Anthony Bottom, the last of three Black Liberation Army members still in prison for the 1971 murder of two NYPD officers in Harlem, is slated for parole next month, possibly sooner, despite the pleas of the PBA and the Long Island widow of one of the slain officers.
Bottom, 68, now known as Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, appeared before the state Board of Parole on Sept. 11, and was granted an open date of release of Oct. 20 — or earlier.
Authorities said Bottom, Herman Bell and Albert (Nuh) Washington ambushed NYPD officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones in the Colonial Park Houses — now the Rangel Houses — in Harlem on May 21, 1971. The PBA, in a statement Wednesday, said that although Jones died instantly, Piagentini pleaded for his life, "invoking his wife and two daughters," only to have Bell empty "two guns into the already seriously wounded officer."
Piagentini died en route to the hospital.
In a statement released Wednesday, Piagentini's widow, Diane Piagentini, of Deer Park, said: "We are heartbroken to see another of Joe's killers set free by politics. But more than anything else, we are angry."
Bottom, Bell and Washington were each convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life, the maximum sentence allowable at the time in New York.
Washington died in prison in 2000. Bell, who also pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the August 1971 killing of Sgt. John Young in San Francisco, was denied parole in New York seven times before being granted his release in April 2018.
Bottom was denied parole 12 times.
Earlier this year, Bottom had sought parole after it was reported he may have contracted COVID-19. New York Attorney General Letitia James challenged a public health release — and records show that on June 4 the Appellate Court ruled against releasing Bottom, stating "This, as petitioner failed to demonstrate the illegality of Muntaqim's confinement, Supreme Court should have dismissed the petition."
A joint statement from the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign, Parole Preparation Project, Brooklyn Defenders Services and The Legal Aid Society supported the Parole Board's decision to release Bottom.
"We support the Parole Board’s decisions to release incarcerated older people who have served decades in prison and pose no risk to public safety. The purpose of parole is to evaluate people for release based on who they are today, not to extend sentences into perpetuity. This and other recent decisions the Parole Board has made based on those principles are the right ones," the statement said.
But PBA president Patrick J. Lynch on Wednesday accused the Cuomo administration and the state Legislature of playing politics by changing state law and parole board rules, therefore making it "easier for violent criminals to challenge parole denials."
Records show that after his previous denial by the parole board, Bottom was not eligible for another appearance before the board until March 2021.
But a judge ruled revisions to parole board guidelines meant Bottom was eligible for a new hearing, which he got on Sept. 11.