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The widow of a New York City police officer killed after being ambushed by a convicted gang member is going after Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a new campaign ad ahead of November’s election.
Joseph Piagentini and his partner, Waverly Jones, were gunned down in 1971 after Herman Bell, a Black Liberation Army member, lured them to an apartment building for an ambush attack. Jones died instantly, but Piagentini pleaded for his life, explaining he had a wife and two young daughters at home.
Bell was sentenced to prison for 25 years to life. But in April, the New York State Parole Board granted Bell his release. A month later, Bell was given the right to vote thanks to a conditional pardon Cuomo, a Democrat, granted to more than 24,000 parolees.
In a campaign ad for Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, Diane Piagentini slams Cuomo for Bell's treatment.
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“It betrays the trust of police families everywhere and devalues the life of my brave husband,” she said in the 30-second ad. “Governor Cuomo, my kids and I have lived with the pain every day for over 47 years, and there’s no parole from that.”
Cuomo did criticize the parole board’s decision to release Bell – but has said the panel is not subject to his control.
“If I were on the parole board, I would not have made that decision,” Cuomo previously said. “The parole board is an independent board, but I would not have made that decision.”
After Bell was granted the right to vote, Diane Piagentini accused Cuomo of “doing it for the votes” since the move came “right before the Democratic convention.” Bell is a registered Democrat, according to the New York Post.
“Crime victims don’t matter to this governor, not when political points for a 2020 Democratic presidential primary can be scored,” Molinaro campaign spokesman Bill O’Riley told the New York Post with the ad’s release. “It’s all about politics with him, damned public safety.”
Cuomo’s campaign, in turn, blasted Molinaro as “despicable and desperate” for “exploit[ing] this tragedy for his political gain.”
“The parole board is independent of the Governor, every parole board appointee is approved by Marc Molinaro’s fellow Republicans, and the Governor made clear his strong disagreement with their decision in this case,” spokeswoman Lis Smith told the New York Post.
According to the New York Post, the ad will initially be released in a digital format before moving to cable television.
Fox News has ranked the gubernatorial election as likely Democrat.
Fox News’ Greg Norman and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.