The Biden Administration's Top Criminal Prosecutor Helped Lead a Group That Defended Cop Killers

Nicole Argentieri served on the Legal Aid Society's board alongside embattled Biden judicial pick Adeel Mangi

Nicole Argentieri and Attorney General Merrick Garland. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
April 15, 2024

The Biden administration’s top criminal prosecutor served on the board of directors of a "social justice law firm" that during her tenure called to defund police departments and free cop killers from prison, records show.

Nicole M. Argentieri, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division, served on the board of the Legal Aid Society of New York from January 2019 to May 2022, according to the nonprofit’s tax filings. During her tenure on the board, the Legal Aid Society of New York endorsed "the movement to #DefundNYPD" and promoted a "March to Defund the NYPD" rally.

The Legal Aid Society also represented some of New York City’s most notorious cop killers when Argentieri served on the board. In 2019 and 2020, lawyers for the nonprofit represented Black Liberation Army members Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim in their parole cases. The pair were convicted of assassinating two New York City police officers in May 1971 and murdered a San Francisco police officer inside a patrol station in August 1971. They were granted parole over the objections of their victims’ families and then-New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.

Lawmakers say Argentieri’s ties to the anti-police organization raise concerns about her ability to serve as the nation’s top criminal prosecutor, a role in which she works closely with the FBI and other federal and local law enforcement officers.

"Argentieri being selected to run the Criminal Division in an acting capacity is a slap in the face to every brave law enforcement officer," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon. Argentieri’s ascent to the assistant attorney general post highlights "the Biden administration’s policies putting criminals ahead of law-abiding citizens," Cruz said.

It is unclear whether Argentieri was aware of the Legal Aid Society’s controversial clients or the organization’s anti-cop rhetoric, though the group says its board members provide "crucial guidance that strengthens our work." A spokesman for the Legal Aid Society declined to comment. The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Argentieri, who oversees more than 1,400 federal prosecutors and employees, took over as acting assistant general of the criminal division last year after the departure of Kenneth Polite. The position, which served as a springboard for FBI directors James Comey and Robert Mueller, requires Senate confirmation. President Joe Biden has not nominated a person for the role, and it is unclear whether Argentieri is under consideration for the permanent position.

"It would add insult to injury if Joe Biden were to nominate [Argentieri] to fill the role permanently," Cruz told the Free Beacon.

Argentieri’s tenure at the Legal Aid Society overlapped with that of Adeel Mangi, Biden’s nominee for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said this week Mangi’s position with the Legal Aid Society and another group, the Alliance of Families for Justice, make him unfit for the lifetime judicial appointment. Mangi serves on the advisory board of the latter group, which has hailed six convicted cop killers as "freedom fighters." Its founding board member is Kathy Boudin, a member of the terrorist group Weather Underground who was convicted of murdering two police officers in 1981.

Argentieri served on the Legal Aid Society board while working at the private law firm O’Melveny & Myers in its white collar defense and corporate investigations practice. She contributed between $1,000 and $4,999 to the Legal Aid Society of New York in 2021, according to its annual report.

O’Melveny & Myers provided pro bono services to the Legal Aid Society and also served on its "Cop Accountability Project," which represented defendants arrested during Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020. Though the initiative was designed to "hold police accountable," its supervising attorney, Jennvine Wong, was a proponent of defunding police departments. In 2020, Wong criticized police reform proposals "that fail to defund the police and significantly reduce the size of the department." The Legal Aid Society promoted marches in support of defunding the New York City police department in June 2020 and May 2021.

The Legal Aid Society took on Herman Bell’s parole case in January 2019, the same month Argentieri joined the board of directors. The group defended Bell in a lawsuit brought by Diane Piagentini, the widow of one of Bell’s victims, who sued the state to rescind Bell’s parole in 2018. Legal Aid Society lawyers asserted Piagentini’s "private wishes" regarding Bell’s parole were overridden by the "public interest" in having him released from prison.

The Legal Aid Society represented Muntaqim in his parole case in 2020, arguing he should be freed from prison because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Legal Aid Society lawyers said Muntaqim, also known as Anthony Bottom, was "being left to die" in jail. He was freed in August 2020.

Bell and Muntaqim were granted parole over the wishes of police groups and then-New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who said the duo murdered police officers "for no other reason than the uniforms on their backs and the shields on their chests."

"Cop-killers deserve the death penalty," said Cruz, "but the radicals leading the Biden administration would rather let them out to kill again."