'WRONG MAN' FREED
AFTER 14 YRS.
BAILED OUT ON 'BAD RAP' IN QNS. SLAY
By IKIMULISA LIVINGSTON
Posted: 4:02 am
August 15, 2010
After 14 years behind bars, a Far Rockaway man literally jumped for joy yesterday after he was released on $150,000 bail posted by an investigator who found evidence to overturn his conviction.
Kareem Bellamy stepped out of Queens Supreme Court to the open arms of relatives and cheers from his relentless law team, which spent nearly four years working to get him freed.
"I hope I don't get struck by lightning," he joked in the midst of a thunderstorm. "I can't believe I'm really walking out."
Justice Joel Blumenfeld vacated the murder conviction in June. The same judge approved bail yesterday while the Queens District Attorney's Office pursues an appeal on his order for a new trial.
"It's unfair to keep you in jail after 14 years, especially since we don't know how long the appeal will take," said Blumenfeld. "It would be unfair to remand you."
Bellamy was 28 when a jury found him guilty of the 1994 stabbing of James Abbott Jr. The following year, he was sentenced to 25 years to life.
One of the two investigators who uncovered the evidence that got his conviction overturned posted bail by putting up his condominium.
"It's the right thing to do," said former FBI Agent Joseph O'Brien. "I put a lot of bad guys in jail. It's time I use my skills to get an innocent one out. It wasn't a matter of money - it's a matter of justice."
O'Brien and former NYPD Detective Eddie Henson scoured Far Rockaway for months while reinvestigating the case, and acquired a recording of another man confessing to the brutal stabbing.
"I'm going to Disney World!" Bellamy joked when asked what's next for him. "Everything else was taken away, but I still got" a sense of humor.
Finally meeting O'Brien for the first time, he gave him a big hug.
"I don't know why you did it, but I'm glad you did," he said.
He also grabbed hold of lawyers Thomas Hoffman and Darin McAtee. Bellamy's sister, Shanton, calls them "Superman and Batman."
"We got superheroes on our side," she said.
"I'm just so happy," said Bellamy's mother, Geraldine, who hasn't seen her son in years. "It's been so long for something he didn't even do."
Bellamy has turned down a deal to plead guilty to manslaughter and be sentenced to time served.
"I can hardly stand up now," he told his lawyer. "But standing up for the truth for me is more important than my freedom. If God wants me back in jail, then I'll go back. But I don't think he wants me there."