Monroe County Republican Party Chair Bill Napier doesn’t hide his feelings about Anthony Bottom, a former member of a Black Panther splinter group who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1971 killings of two New York City police officers and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Bottom was paroled Oct. 7 and is now living in Brighton.
“He’s a very violent individual who was issued a life sentence and that given the nature of his crimes he should have served that,” Napier said during a news conference Thursday.
Napier is now trying to get Bottom, who goes by Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, sent back to prison by alleging that he committed at least one criminal offense while on parole by registering to vote the day after he was released.
He called a news conference Thursday to announce that he would be delivering a letter to District Attorney Sandra Doorley asking her to investigate Bottom’s actions and, if appropriate, prosecute him.
“During the time serving on parole, convicts are afforded a second chance to become productive members of society,” read a copy of the letter, which Napier provided to reporters. “Still, due to their prior criminal acts, and in Bottom’s case, horrifying violent acts, they are not entitled to the benefit of the doubt.”
CITY has attempted to reach Bottom, but it did not receive an immediate response.
State law prohibits felons on parole from voting, though they can have their rights restored by the governor. But state records indicate that Gov. Andrew Cuomo never issued the necessary pardon to Bottom.
Napier alleges that Bottom violated a state law that makes it a felony for people to register to vote knowing that they can’t vote in the district in which they registered. He also argued that Bottom likely violated the terms of his parole. In general, parolees can have their release revoked if they engage in illegal activity.
Bottom was one of three Black Liberation Army members convicted in the 1971 ambush killings of NYPD officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini. The BLA was a militant organization that had broken off from the Black Panther Party.
An exhaustive January 2019 New Yorker article on Bottom’s 11th parole bid noted that there were problems with the trio’s prosecution. The first trial resulted in a hung jury and a second trial in convictions. A police ballistics expert was later convicted of perjury for his testimony about the alleged murder weapon, the article stated, and a key witness recanted his testimony.
But despite several appeals, the convictions stood.
One of the defendants, Albert Washington, died in prison in 2000. Another defendant, Herman Bell, was paroled in 2018.
“My story is this here -- I have been to the parole board, and I have met it and taken responsibility for the death of the police officers in this case,” Bottom told The New Yorker. “The killing of anyone -- whether the situation based upon this conviction or the innocent killing of black people by rogue cops -- it’s a tragedy. And we should all feel bad.”
Bottom’s parole has been controversial, as have his prior attempts to gain release. The NYPD officers’ union has opposed his parole, as have some of the state’s top elected officials and Diane Piagentini, wife of Officer Joseph Piagentini.
But Bottom has also received support from some unlikely places. Waverly Jones Jr., the son of Officer Waverly Jones, argued for his release and in a previous hearing had urged the Parole Board to consider the context of the era.
“There was rampant racism both individual and institutional,” read an excerpt of a letter from Waverly to the board that was published by The New Yorker. “Many took to the streets. Some engaged in militant actions, including violent ones. There were also many instances of police violence.”
Others invoked what they said was Bottom’s exemplary record in prison and studies that show senior citizens released from incarceration rarely reoffend.
NPR published a story on Bottom’s parole last month and interviewed Joseph Saldana, a former inmate who served time with Bottom and now heads the reform project Release Aging People in Prisons.
"I found him to be one of the exceptional mentors within the New York state prison system," Saldana said. "A lot of things happen in prison. Human beings transform their thinking and their behavior."
Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.