Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bell jurors hear of previous convictions

By Randall Beach
Register Staff
— Jurors hearing evidence Monday as to whether Arnold Bell should have his prison sentence extended saw a long list of convictions he incurred before he was found guilty of first-degree assault in the shooting of New Haven police Officer Robert Fumiatti.
Bell’s character and life history are among factors jurors will consider as they decide whether a period of extended incarceration would serve the public interest.
Superior Court Judge Joseph Licari Jr. told the eight jurors Monday just before the first witness was called that the sentencing range for first-degree assault is at least five years and no more than 20.
But if jurors conclude Bell should serve the extended sentence, Licari can sentence him to a minimum of 21 years and a maximum of 40.
Licari also told the jury Fumiatti died several years after the shooting but his death (from an inflammatory heart disease) was not caused by the crime. "His death has nothing to do with this case," he said, "and you are not to consider it in your deliberations."
Bell was convicted in 2004 of shooting Fumiatti in the face June 13, 2002, during a drug bust on Washington Street. Superior Court Judge Robert Devlin Jr. sentenced Bell to a 45-year prison term, but the state Supreme Court ruled a jury, rather than a judge, should decide whether Bell deserves an extended sentence.
According to testimony Monday, Fumitatti barely survived the day he was shot.
The first witness, Franklin Quicksly, a paramedic and firefighter for the New Haven Fire Department, said when he was dispatched to the scene, Fumiatti was in cardiac arrest and not breathing. Quicksly said he was unable to revive him during the ride to Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Dr. Juan Bartolomei, then on duty at the hospital, testified Fumiatti arrived there without vital signs. "He was basically dead when he came in to the ER."
Then the medical team detected a pulse.
Bartolomei said Fumiatti had "a remarkable recovery" and eventually was able to "regain function" and be discharged.
But because Bartolomei and his associates decided not to remove the bullet from Fumiatti’s neck, fearing it would be hazardous, Fumiatti never regained the ability to move his head normally, according to Bartolomei.
Fumiatti’s spinal cord also was injured, preventing him from having full coordination of his hands, Bartolomei added.
The jurors also heard from Anthony Banks, who is serving prison time for violating a protective order. Banks testified that in June 2002 he regularly bought crack cocaine from Bell near the scene of the shooting.
But defense attorney Jeffrey Kestenband read to the jury a stipulated agreement with prosecutors that police found no illegal drugs on Bell or in his home.
Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Doyle then read to jurors Bell’s extensive criminal record. It began in November 1983 with a conviction for third-degree robbery. Bell was subsequently convicted through the years of first-degree robbery, third-degree assault, possession of narcotics with intent to sell and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Captain Armando Valeriano of the state Department of Correction testified Bell violated his community residence program release in June 1988, when he was charged with conspiracy to commit assault with a firearm. One year later, Valeriano said, Bell had another violation, for possessing cocaine he obtained from someone who visited him in prison.
In January 1994, Valeriano said, Bell was on weekend release when he was involved in a car chase with police after he was stopped for running a red light and speeding. Doyle said Bell gave a gun to his 12-year-old cousin after he was pulled over.
Randall Beach can be reached at rbeach@nhregister.com or 789-5766.

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