The Chief

March 10, 2000

 

Convict 'Louima Cops' of Lying About Assault

By William Van Auken

Emotions erupted at the Federal courthouse in Brooklyn March 6 after a jury found three Police Officers guilty of conspiring to obstruct a Federal grand jury investigation into the 1997 torture of Abner Louima in a Brooklyn stationhouse bathroom.

F---ing liars, f---ing bullshit; twice," Charles Schwarz said under his breath, holding up two fingers at the defense table after the verdict was read. Convicted together with Justin A. Volpe of the 70th Precinct bathroom assault in a trial that concluded last June, he could face up to life in prison. The two other cops--Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder--face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge.

Rage and Tears

As the crowd spilled out of the courtroom, family and friends of the three officers and some fellow cops cursed and cried. Officer Bruder threw an object against the wall, while Officer Wiese's mother fell sobbing to the floor. Others shook their heads in disbelief, saying, "That's what happens when you tell the truth."

  Officer Schwarz's family and his union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, had insisted that he was never in the bathroom with Mr. Volpe and had hoped an acquittal in the second trial would help overturn his conviction on the assault charge. The three cops were accused of concocting a false alibi to conceal Mr. Schwarz's presence while Mr. Volpe rammed a broken piece of broomstick into Mr. Louima's rectum.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Loretta E. Lynch said that the guilty verdict sent a message that 'within the Police Department there is no greater betrayal of the badge and the brotherhood than to ensnare another officer in a web of lies and deceit"

PBA First Vice President John Puglissi attributed the conviction to "a witchhunt by the Federal prosecutors" and "an anti-police climate that resides here today in this city." He added that the jury was influenced by media coverage of the Diallo verdict.

Attorneys for the three officers vowed to appeal the convictions based on what they characterized as unfair rulings by U.S. District Judge Eugene H. Nickerson.

  "Chuck and his family are devastated," said Ronald Fischetti, the attorney for Officer Schwarz. He said he had asked that his client be placed on a suicide watch at the Metropolitan Correction Center.

  "There is not a police officer of good character who would not be disgusted by this abhorrent behavior and any effort to conceal it," said Police Commissioner Howard Safir, who stressed that the case was based on evidence uncovered by the department's Internal Affairs Bureau and "testimony from police officers who voluntarily came forward." An NYPD spokesman said that paperwork for the dismissal of Officers Wiese and Bruder was being processed as this newspaper went to press.