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Queens man freed after 13 years in prison for murder he swears he didn't commit, but is he innocent?

Originally Published:Friday, September 16th 2011, 1:24 PM
Updated: Friday, September 16th 2011, 1:44 PM
 

Kareem Bellamy (right) is embraced as he walks out of the court room at Queens Supreme Court after his murder conviction was overturned Friday.Queens man freed after 13 years in prison for murder he swears he didn't commit, but is he innocent?

Originally Published: Friday, September 16th 2011, 1:24 PM 

Anthony DelMundo for News
Kareem Bellamy (right) is embraced as he walks out of the court room at Queens Supreme Court after his murder conviction was overturned Friday. (click here to view video)

A Queens judge dismissed murder charges Friday against a Far Rockaway man who spent 13 years in prison for a fatal 1994 stabbing he swears he didn't commit.

Kareem Bellamy won his freedom after Queens prosecutors grudgingly agreed not to pursue murder charges in a hard-fought case in which two former detectives staked their reputation on Bellamy's innocence.

"You're free to resume your life," Supreme Court Justice Joel Blumenfeld told Bellamy, as he wiped away tears. "Get on with your life. Don't dwell in the past. Make the most of what you've got."

"Thank you, your honor," Bellamy said. "God bless you."

Bellamy, 44, walked out of court and grabbed retired NYPD Det. Ed Henson in a bear hug.

In 2008 Blumenfeld tossed out the murder conviction and ordered a new trial after Henson tracked down a witness who produced an audiotape of a friend confessing to Abbott's slaying.

Queens prosecutors later determined the tape was faked and accused Bellamy's lawyers of paying career criminal Michael Green to pin the slaying on someone else.

"Mr. Bellamy has now been freed from that conviction based on an outright fraud perpetrated against this court," said Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal. "He has not - I repeat - he has not been exonerated. This is not a case of actual innocence."

However, Leventhal conceded that recent appeals court rulings would make it difficult to win a new trial.

After the dismissal, Henson had harsh words for Leventhal, who sparred with the former detective when he took the witness stand for Bellamy at a post-trial hearing in 2009.

"His arrogance and his ego got in the way," Henson said. "He was hell bent on keeping Kareem in jail and I think he was wrong."

Henson was joined by former FBI agent Joseph O'Brien - the author of the bestselling mob book "Boss of Bosses - who worked on Bellamy's defense team and put up his upstate New York condo as collateral for Bellamy's $150,000 bail.

"Kareem never had a chance in life," O'Brien said. "He was wrongfully convicted."

Bellamy said he wished prosecutors would have stood up and said he was innocent of killing Abbott, whom he knew when they attended junior high school together in the Rockaways.

"It's sad," Bellamy said. "Do they want James to come out of the grave and say, 'He didn't kill me?'"

Bellamy has enrolled in school to learn medical billing and is trying to rekindle relationships with his children that fell apart after he was sent off to prison.

"It's like you're dead," Bellamy said of his prison stretch. "I was definitely dead. Now I'm alive again."

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