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New York Daily News

I want retrial, not a deal, to prove my innocence, man says


Friday, August 15th 2008, 12:52 AM

Rejecting a plea deal that would have ended his legal nightmare, a Queens man jailed for 14 years is insisting on a trial to prove he's innocent of murder - even at the risk of landing back behind bars.

"Physically, I can hardly stand up now, but standing up for the truth, for me, is more important than my freedom," Kareem Bellamy, 41, said Thursday. "If God wants me back in jail, that's the way it would happen."

A judge threw out Bellamy's murder conviction and ordered a new trial in June after his lawyers produced a taped confession by a man claiming to be the killer. Several key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony since Bellamy's 1995 trial.

Bellamy could have closed the case Wednesday after prosecutors offered to release him on time served if he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

But Bellamy refused, saying he didn't kill anyone.

If convicted again, Bellamy faces 25 years to life in prison.

Prosecutors are appealing the judge's decision to overturn the verdict.

Kareem Ballamy hugs mom, Geraldine
Kareem Bellamy hugs mom, Geraldine.
Bellamy was released from prison Thursday after Queens Supreme Court Justice Joel Blumenfeld granted him $150,000 bail.

"This moment right here is one of the happiest of my life," Bellamy said, emerging from the back door of Queens Criminal Court.

"Words can't express how happy I am," said Bellamy, enjoying an afternoon thundershower. "I can't believe I'm walking out of here without an escort."

Bellamy smiled, showing off a gold-capped front tooth, and pumped his fists in the air as he hugged his relatives and lawyer Thomas Hoffman, who never wavered in their belief in his innocence.

From the start, Bellamy has insisted he had nothing to do with the 1994 fatal stabbing of James Abbott in Far Rockaway, Queens.

In a rare move, Bellamy's bail was posted by his pro bono investigator, Joseph O'Brien, a former FBI agent and author of bestselling mob book "Boss of Bosses."

"I felt strongly about it. He shouldn't have to spend another day in jail," said O'Brien, who put up his retirement condo in upstate New York to secure the bail. "It's the right thing to do."

Bellamy's dad, Howard, called the judge an "angel from heaven."

"I'm happy he had the heart and consideration to do this for my son," he said.



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