Updated: October 18, 2020 06:24 PM
Created: October 18, 2020 12:28 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC/AP) — A former member of a Black radical group who was convicted in the 1971 killings of two New York City police officers has been released on parole in Rochester after more than four decades behind bars.
In September, the state Board of Parole approved the release of Anthony Bottom from prison on or before Oct. 20. His parole follows that of a co-defendant, Herman Bell, in 2018.
Bottom was released on parole from Wende Correctional Facility on Oct. 7 and is now living in Rochester, according to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Diane Piagentini, the widow of Officer Joseph Piagentini, blamed the decision on what she described as a shift in New York in recent years toward a more lenient approach to parole.
"We are heartbroken to see another of Joe’s killers set free by politics. But more than anything else, we are angry. Gov. Cuomo and the Albany Democrats might think they’ve won," Diane Piagentini said. "They might think they’ve broken us. We have a message for them: We are not going anywhere. We will not go away until they are held accountable for the hell they’ve put us through. I owe that to my husband. My daughters owe that to their father. And we owe it to every forgotten and ignored crime victim in New York State."
The Police Benevolent Association of New York City expressed their frustration in a letter directed to Cuomo and the State Legislature.
"We are furious with the cowards and lunatics who claim to lead this state," PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said. "Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature have spent years torturing crime victims, especially the hero families of fallen police officers. They knew that changing the parole guidelines would unleash more vicious killers like Anthony Bottom back onto our streets. They have chosen to stand with the murderers, cold-blooded assassins and radicals bent on overthrowing our society. We have now seen 16 cop-killers released in less than three years. We will continue to see more unless New Yorkers wake up and speak out against the madness being done in their names."
Bottom, 68, and Bell were both sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the killing of Officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini.
Jones and Piagentini were shot multiple times after responding to a report of a domestic dispute at a Harlem public housing complex on May 21, 1971. Prosecutors said that it was a trap set by Bottom and Bell.
The two were members of a violent offshoot of the Black Panther Party called the Black Liberation Army.
According to NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Bottom's next parole hearing is scheduled in March 2021.
Copyright 2020 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company