Offer to drop charges in NYC 50-shot protests

June 18, 2008 12:15:49 PM PDT
Charges will be dropped against scores of protesters arrested during demonstrations over the acquittals of three police officers in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man on his wedding day, prosecutors said Wednesday.Citywide demonstrations, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, clogged intersections and snarled traffic last month. More than 200 people were arrested, including Sharpton, Nicole Paultre Bell, the fiancee of slain groom Sean Bell, and two men also injured in the 2006 shooting. The charges included disorderly conduct for blocking traffic or refusing orders to disperse.

Brooklyn and Manhattan prosecutors said charges will be dismissed against 154 of the protesters after six months if the defendants stay out of trouble. Another nine pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Because of the high volume of arrests, 61 cases, including those of Bell and Sharpton, are still pending in Manhattan. Those cases will likely be eventually dismissed as is the practice with most civil disobedience cases, prosecutors said.

Bell, 23, died in a hail of 50 bullets on Nov. 25, 2006, around the corner from a Queens topless bar where he had been celebrating his bachelor party and where undercover police were investigating complaints of prostitution.

Detectives Gescard Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper were cleared of manslaughter and other charges in April after a two-month trial heard by a judge instead of a jury. The detectives said they opened fire on Bell's car because they believed he and his friends were armed and because the men defied orders to halt and tried to drive away. No weapon was recovered.