Defense says detective overcame adversity

By Ivan Pereira


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Isnora grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn in a family of immigrants, according to his attorney, Anthony Ricco during his opening arguments. The attorney told Judge Arthur Cooperman that Isnora avoided the gang and drug culture that plagued his community during the '80s and decided to become a police officer.”Rather than dealing with the drug dealers… he decided to be part of the solution,” Ricco said in his opening argument.Isnora was the first officer who fired on Bell, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman in the early morning hours on Nov. 25, 2006, according to the District Attorney's office. Isnora fired 11 of the 50 shots that killed Bell and wounded his friends.Ricco mentioned that his client worked in numerous undercover operations and has put his life on the line for the community for years. Michael Hardy, representing Bell's family, Benefield and Guzman, blasted Ricco's statements, claiming the attorney downplayed the detective's wrongdoing.”If you listen to their opening statement, they're saying that Isnora, as a black police officer, faces the same danger as Sean Bell,” Hardy told reporters outside the court.Almost two years ago, Isnora was brought into the NYPD's new undercover nightclub squad that eventually set its sights on the Kalua Cabaret, according to Ricco. He said his client was following his duties when he informed his superiors that he had spotted a patron whom he claimed harassed a dancer and tapped his belt in a way that indicated he had a gun.The attorney said Isnora identified himself as an officer and asked the Bell's entourage to freeze, which resulted in Bell's trying to ram his vehicle into Isnora and later the rest of his team. Ricco said his client opened fire solely to protect himself.”The evidence will show that Sean Bell and his friends tried to use the car as a battering ram,” he said.Assistant District Attorney Charles Testagrossa dismissed those claims during his opening argument, calling Isnora reckless in his handling of the situation. Testagrossa claimed Isnora did not identify himself as a detective and kept his badge in a barely visible area near the collar of his jacket.”It will be clear that what happened cannot be explained away as a mere accident or mistake. It can only be characterized as criminal,” he said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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