Aborn, Endorsed By Sean Bell’s Parents, Said in 2008 Cops’ Not-Guilty Verdict “Justified” (Updated)


Given that Sean Bell’s parents endorsed gun control advocate Richard Aborn for Manhattan District Attorney yesterday, we thought it was worth revisiting Aborn’s statements about the Sean Bell case.

What we found was interesting: Back when Aborn, a former Manhattan prosecutor, was head of the non-profit Citizens Crime Commission, he gave an interview to NY1 about the Bell case.

In the interview, Aborn clearly supports the judge’s decision to acquit the three officers who were charged with manslaughter for shooting Bell. Aborn, who had been an investigator in the 1998 shooting of Amadou Diallo, tells a NY1 anchor, “In terms of criminal culpability…the decision was justified.” He also says, “The law has to react based on evidence. Politics must be kept out of it. I believe that’s what happened in this case.”

Aborn’s comments were measured and thoughtful, but that didn’t spare him the fury of some people from Harlem and the Bronx who called into the show. He noted that the case was close call and could have gone either way. He said that he believed that what was most important was that the trial was fair. He pointed out that while, “in and of itself, this was an isolated incident,” if you were a black man in this city, you wouldn’t see it as an isolated incident.

At the time of the trial, Bell’s family did not comment publicly about the verdict, but we can assume they were greatly disappointed. The fact that Bell’s family has endorsed Aborn, despite his support for the verdict, seems somewhat remarkable. It also suggests that Aborn played his cards right when it came to the Bells.

So how did Aborn get this endorsement? The Bell family could not be reached for comment today, but it’s clear that Aborn actively (and smartly) courted them*. The campaign tells us that he sat down with Bell’s parents and watched the very NY1 interview we’re talking about, in which Aborn expresses support. Presumably they talked, and the family was convinced that he was on the right side of the issue.

The vote for the District Attorney primary is set for September 15.

* Update: The Aborn campaign tells us that it was in fact the Bells who reached out to Aborn, not the other way around. They also tell us our presumption in the final paragraph that Aborn and the Bells talked about the interview is correct.


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