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Sharpton Presses For Guilty Verdict In Sean Bell Shooting

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As the three detectives charged in the Sean Bell shooting await a verdict announcement scheduled for Friday, the Reverend Al Sharpton held a rally on the steps of City Hall Wednesday.

Sharpton, who was joined by other clergy members and Bell’s loved ones, said that Bell’s supporters have kept up their end of the bargain by not disrupting the trial and that now they want the law upheld.

“This is going to go one of two ways. Either we will get justice for Sean Bell, or they will condone the execution of Sean Bell,” said Joseph Guzman, who was seriously wounded the night of the shooting.

Queens Judge Arthur Cooperman is expected to hand down a verdict Friday in the case against three detectives accused of killing Bell, who was unarmed, on his wedding day. Police fired 50 shots, which also wounded two of Bell's companions that night.

The reverend claimed that prosecutors proved beyond a doubt that the detectives who fired 50 bullets at Bell and his friends in November of 2006 were reckless in their actions.

“The indictment around the death of Sean Bell was that in shooting at Joe Guzman, they killed Sean Bell, who was not their target, in a reckless manner,” said Sharpton. “That is reckless manslaughter. That was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Lawyers for the detectives have said throughout the trial that they opened fire because they believed their lives were in danger. Their lawyers say that the law states that they can be acquitted even if that assumption was wrong.

Prosecutors said the detectives, who were undercover and in plainclothes, never identified themselves as members of the NYPD.

“Nothing will bring Sean back, but hopefully I pray that if the right decision is made Friday, this will help any other family from suffering the way we have,” said Bell’s fiancŽe Nicole Paultre-Bell.

Bell's fiancŽe spoke with Mayor Michael Bloomberg briefly outside City Hall, as Sharpton stood by. That followed a larger formal sit-down earlier this month, but the mayor says he isn't planning another face-to-face meeting.

"We have tragedies all the time, there are court decisions all the time," he said.

The mayor called for peace in the city no matter what the judge rules.

"I'm not worried at all," said Bloomberg. "We've come a long ways from the time when people rushed into the streets, and tried to tear apart our society."

Sharpton added that he has never and will never call for violence.

"We're the same people that when the trial of Amadou Diallo was wrongfully moved to Albany, then I stood on those steps when they were acquitted and said ÎWe're not going to throw one brick or one stick,’ and we didn’t. We're the same people," said Sharpton.

Elected officials in the area who are backing a guilty plea say they will support an appeal or push for federal charges if the officers walk, but they don't expect any violent eruptions.

"They're going to be upset about it if they're not found guilty, but the reality is I think that they know that there are other options," said Assembly member Barbara Clark.

"Everyone on behalf of the family is calling for calm. No one wants to see violence," said City Council member Leroy Comrie.

The mayor wouldn't say if the city is preparing for any disturbances, stressing that the police will go wherever needed, but one Queens leader says he's been told officers are on alert.

"I'm a little concerned about the amount of police that we're talking about putting on the street on Friday, where there has been no real act of violence or response in any way toward the entire trial," said State Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith. "We suspect that everybody is going to remain calm."

Bell’s family and supporters say they plan to hold a vigil tonight and tomorrow. They also say they all plan to be at the announcement of the verdict on Friday.
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