Parole reinstated for Brooklyn man convicted in cop killing

July 8, 2014 By Charisma L. Miller, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. AP photo
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A Brooklyn defendant breathes a sigh of relief as the New York State Court of Appeals has reinstated a previously rescinded parole.

In September 2013, the state parole board refused to release Pablo Costello who had been convicted of murder when his accomplice fatally shot policeman David Guttenberg during a 1978 robbery at a Brooklyn auto supply store on 86th Street near Seventh Avenue.

In 2009, after serving 30 years behind bars, the parole board granted Costello’s release only to reverse its decision shortly after. Protests by the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (NYCPBA) and members of Guttenberg’s family were cited as the underlying reason for the parole board’s reversal. 

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“It is our firm belief that, absent a death penalty, life in prison without the possibility of parole is the only just sentence for cop killers,” said Pat Lynch, president of the NYCPBA, at the time of Costello’s parole denial. Guttenberg’s family argued that they were not notified of the parole application or given an opportunity to provide a victim impact statement.

In its reconsideration of Costello’s parole, the board stated that Costello’s release would “deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law.”

Believing the pardon’s act of decision reversal to be an overreach of power, Costello appealed to the Appellate Division, Third Department. The Appellate justices concluded that Costello’s parole was rescinded on account of new evidence. Viewing the previously excluded victim impact statements as new evidence, the appellate justices held the statements sufficient enough to withdraw parole release.

Costello received a friendly ear at the New York State Court of Appeals, with the highest state court finding the parole reversal to be improper. The court made note that victim impact statements should be reviewed before the decision for parole is made. Assuring that their decision would not question the usefulness of impact statements, the court advised that the ruling “not be interpreted as minimizing either the importance of victim impact statements in parole board hearings generally or the powerfully presented evidence of the grief and loss experienced by the family of the victim in this case.”

Not pleased with the Court of Appeals’ ruling, the NYCPBA expressed disappointment “in the parole release of cop-killer Pablo Costello,” as stated in a release obtained by the Brooklyn Eagle.  

“[W]hile laws of punishment have changed over the years, our belief remains firm that anyone who kills a police officer has forfeited their right to freedom and should remain in prison for the rest of their lives,” the statement added. 

Alfred O’Connor served as Costello’s counsel. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Associate Judges Victoria Garffeo, Susan Read, George Smith, Eugene Pigott Jr., Jenny Rivera and Shelia Abdus-Salaam sat on the Court of Appeals panel.

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