Bay Ridge

Palm Sunday Killer’s release angers Brooklyn pols

April 12, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
State Sen. Marty Golden (left) and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis held a press conference outside the Manhattan office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo with retired detective Bo Dietl to call for changes in the state’s parole system. Photo courtesy of Golden’s office

The release from prison of the killer responsible for the infamous Palm Sunday massacre in 1984 has generated an effort by two Brooklyn elected officials to change the law determining when convicts can get out of jail.

State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn) and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) held a press conference last week in front of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office to discuss the case of Christopher Thomas, the man behind the Palm Sunday Massacre in Brooklyn, who was recently granted a conditional release from prison.

Ten people, including eight children, were shot to death execution style in an East New York home on Palm Sunday in 1984.

Thomas, who is now 68 years old, was released from prison in January.

Golden and Malliotakis said they will introduce bills in their respective legislative chambers to change the statute to make it harder for inmates serving time for murder to obtain conditional releases.

A conditional release allows an inmate to get out of jail under the stipulation that they avoid certain activities and associations when they return to life outside of prison. If the inmate violates the conditions, the release is revoked and the ex-convict could be remanded to prison.

Golden and Malliotakis were joined at the press conference by Bo Dietl, a retired NYPD detective and TV personality who made the arrest in the Palm Sunday Massacre 34 years ago.

On April 15, 1984, Thomas went to the home of his drug dealer on Liberty Avenue in East New York and not finding him at home, killed 10 people inside the home; eight children between the ages of 4 and 14, as well as the children’s mothers.

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He was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree weapons charges. The New York Times reported that the jury did not find Thomas guilty of murder and opted instead for a manslaughter conviction after determining that he was a cocaine addict at the time of the slayings.

Under current state law, a prisoner who is not granted parole by the New York State Parole Board after a first appearance before the board may seek a conditional release later on.

Golden and Malliotakis said they want to change the law to prevent murderers from being eligible for a conditional release from prison.

“We stand together today to pledge that we will fight to change the current flawed conditional release statute so that violent murderers serve their full sentences behind bars,” Golden said. “Christopher Thomas callously murdered innocent mothers and denied their beautiful children a chance of living life.  Unfortunately, the current conditional release law has failed them by allowing for the release of their killer without serving the full 50 years. We will not fail them.” 

Malliotakis called the release of Thomas “total insanity” and said something has to be done.

“Whether it is the Department of Corrections in this case, or the State Board of Parole in the case of cop killer Herman Bell, bad decisions are being made and dangerous consequences are sure to follow,” she said.

Malliotakis was referring to the case of Herman Bell, who shot Police Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones to death in outside a Harlem housing project in 1971 and was recently granted parole.

His release was blocked, however, after a court which ruled that a lawsuit filed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) on behalf of Piagentini’s widow Diane Piagentini, must be heard before Bell can get out of jail.

PBA filed the suit to challenge Bell’s parole.

“We needed to put a stop to this trend before it even began. Gov. Cuomo should replace the incompetent parole board members who voted to release Bell, and work with us to change the law so that someone who is convicted of such heinous manslaughter cannot be eligible for conditional release at any time,” Malliotakis said.

Prison officials explained Thomas’ conditional release to the Times last month.

Thomas was originally sentenced to serve 10 consecutive life sentences in prison for his first degree manslaughter conviction but a state law governing manslaughter sentences capped that sentence at 50 years, the Times reported. Taking into consideration time off for good behavior, Thomas became eligible for release after he served two-thirds of the sentence, prison officials told the Times.

Bell’s parole had a great deal of support from criminal justice reform groups.

An online petition supporting the Parole Board’s decision garnered more than 800 signatures, including the signatures of dozens of artists, according to the website www.artnet.com.

Bell’s release was also endorsed by members of the late Police Officer Waverly Jones’ family.

His son, Waverly Jones Jr., wrote a letter supporting Bell’s release.

“Keeping Mr. Bell in jail after all of these years would serve no purpose other than vengeance, something that we as a family do not need or want,” Jones wrote in the letter.

At press time, Cuomo’s office did not return the Éagle’s request for comment on the bill.

 

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