A former member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA), who was convicted in the killing of two New York City police officers in 1971, has been granted parole.
On Wednesday, the New York state Board of Parole approved the release of Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, AKA Anthony Bottom, on or before 1 October 2020, following a hearing earlier this month.
His parole comes two years after his co-defendant Herman Bell was granted release in 2018 after parole guidelines were changed in the state, according to The Associated Press. Albert Washington, who was also convicted with the pair, died in prison.
Muntaqim and Bell were both sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 1974, after they were convicted of killing New York officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini in 1971.
The officers were shot multiple times by the pair, after they responded to a report of a domestic dispute at a Harlem public housing complex.
During their trial, prosecutors said that Muntaqim and Bell set a trap for the officers and ambushed them when they arrived at the scene.
The two men were members of the BLA, an offshoot of the Black Panther Party, which sanctioned killings of police officers in New York and California, according to the AP.
Piagentini’s widow Diane, who raised the couple’s two kids on her own, criticised the decision and said that it was made because New York has adopted a more lenient approach to parole in recent years.
Ms Piagentini said: “Bottom and Bell should never have gotten out of prison until my husband comes down the driveway and says, ‘Diane, I’m home. Where are the kids?’ And that is never going to happen.”
She added: “We are heartbroken to see another of Joe´s killers set free by politics.”
Others have argued that Muntaqim has changed during his time incarcerated, and Jose Saldana, who was in prison with him and now advocates for reformed convicts, told CBS News that he “is beyond remorseful.”
Mr Saldana added: “He has completely changed, transformed his life and helped an entire generation transform their lives.”
The Release Aging People in Prisons Campaign, Parole Preparation Project, Brooklyn Defenders Office, and Legal Aid Society released a joint statement to CBS in support of Muntaqim’s release.
“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 statement read.
The groups added: “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.”
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