|Detective Michael Oliver|
(NY Daily News)
This is highly advantageous to the detectives, as Justice Cooperman seems to like police officers. According to Judicial Reports Justice Cooperman is "reversed more often than any other judge in the city for overly harsh treatment of criminal defendants." Additionally, according to the same source, Justice Cooperman has been praised by the Daily News for "slamming cop-haters." The Daily News article that is alluded to is pretty mundane, however, as it seems that he has only given one guy an overly harsh sentence (a full year for biting a cop without injuring him). Additionally, Cooperman has sentenced cops to jail before, but the sentence seems a little light for the crime (a 1986 sentence of 2 to 6 years for cops who tortured a drug suspect with a taser.)
|Detective Gescard Isnora|
(NY Daily News)
What is important here is that, while Justice Cooperman seems to hand down maximum sentences for those who hurt police officers, he does not do the same for police officers who hurt civilians. In a New York Times article published July 18, 1986 reporting on the conviction of Pike and Gilbert it states that Cooperman could have sentenced the two officers to the maximum sentence of 2 and 1/3 years to 7 years in prison for the torture but did not. While the maximum sentence is not much more than they got, it would have sent a symbolic message that police torture will not be tolerated, just as Cooperman had on other cases involving violence against police. This is slightly troubling, as it shows (albeit a relatively small) favoring of police officers.
|Detective Marc Cooper|
(NY Daily News)
This was denied, so in a last-ditch effort to avoid the judgement of the same people they have sworn to protect and to serve, they have opted for a bench trial. Unfortunately the Reverend Al Sharpton was right in his assertion that "we are asked to trust police who do not trust us." I say unfortunately because Sharpton tends to be a race-baiter who loves the limelight, but this time he has it right. We are asked to defer to police judgment and obey their every command at the risk of life and limb, but when the tables are turned those same police do not trust us and there is something inherently wrong with that.
The detectives said that they wanted a bench trial because they believed that the pre-trial publicity tainted the jury pool and they would not receive a fair trial. I would argue that the fact that they shot at Sean Bell and companions 50 times and then went out and partied after the indictments were handed down might sway the jury pool, but apparently in their minds it is the fact that media outlets are reporting on their behavior - not the behavior itself - that is wrong.
This trial is going to be interesting. Personally, I would like to see a justice not from New York take the case. In my opinion, the Department of Justice should bring in an outside judge to take it, but that seems like it is not going to happen. There is still hope for justice, as Cooperman might actually give these detectives jail time. Hopefully the citizens of New York will not be slapped in the face with another acquittal of murderous cops and Sean Bell's family will see justice.
Correction: A reader pointed out to me that in the second paragraph I stated that cops tortured a drug suspect with a taser in 1986. The sentence itself was handed down by Judge Cooperman in 1986. I have changed the wording of the paragraph to indicate this.