Ferguson, according to a transcript of Hamilton's most recent interview, said that in 7 1/2 years on the parole board he had never seen an inmate with so much support and did not dispute that the inmate has rehabilitated. But he also noted that there is significant opposition to Hamilton's release. According to the agency, it has received 708 letters supporting Hamilton's bid for release, and 4,074 in opposition.
Mostly, though, Ferguson seemed troubled that Hamilton's two accomplices, including the shooter, have never been brought to justice, and chastised the inmate for refusing to cooperate when the case was fresh. Hamilton said he had seen an informant in jail beaten "senseless" and feared he would "suffer the same fate" if he cooperated. The shooter is believed to be dead.
Hamilton, represented pro bono by attorneys Moira Kim Penza and Christopher Filburn of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, is preparing an administrative appeal to his most recent parole denial. In addition, Penza is challenging the prior denial in a case she argued Nov. 20 before the Third Department.
Penza contends that a new provision requiring the parole board to use a risk assessment tool in considering candidates for relief bars the panel from denying parole simply on the basis of the instant offense. Records show that the assessment concluded that Hamilton is at the lowest possible risk to recidivate.
Grant, the former parole commissioner who is among the amici in the Costello case, said in an interview that the Hamilton case is the one that most haunts him from his six years on the panel.
"This is the one I think about," said Grant, who sat on two of Hamilton's boards, once voting to keep him in prison and once casting the dissenting vote to set him free. "This guy has done everything he could. He has support from the outside and the inside. He has no prior history. He has done everything asked of him. If he were to get out, he would be a credit to the community outside. He is no more likely to commit an offense than you or I."
But sources close to the process said PBA President Lynch and his organization exert considerable influence on the parole boardand the PBA's position is that "cop killers" should never, ever get parole.
Police Benevolent Association
Albert O'Leary, communications director for the NYCPBA, said it makes no difference if the convict intentionally killed a police officer, inadvertently killed an individual they did not know was a cop or was basically along for the ride like Costello and Hamilton.
"In our eyes, he is a convicted cop killer and we oppose parole," O'Leary said. "We just blanketly oppose parole for individuals who are convicted in the killing of a cop."
In September, the PBA launched a "Keep Cop-Killers in Jail" web initiative where people who oppose parole for a particular offender or all 64 on the list can instantly make their opposition known to the board. O'Leary said in the first two weeks of the initiative, 300,000 opposition letters were electronically delivered directly to the parole board.
"Our policy at the PBA is if you are convicted of killing a police officer we are going to oppose your parole forever because we believe cop killers should never see the light of day," O'Leary said. "If you will kill a police officer, a guardian of the public, you would certainly have no qualms about killing an innocent civilian."