July 27, 2001

Cop Case Back to Judge

Panel orders hearing on evidence in Louima officer’s trial

by Patricia Hurtado Staff Writer

  Charles Schwarz in 1997

A panel of federal appeals court judges yesterday ordered the case of convicted police officer Charles Schwarz back to the trial judge to determine whether government prosecutors suppressed evidence -- including interviews with investigators -- that may have affected the outcome of his case.

The circuit judges have not ruled yet on the merits of Schwarz's appeal of his 1999 conviction of depriving Abner Louima of his civil rights by restraining him as former police officer Justin Volpe sodomized him on Aug. 9, 1997.

But the panel instead ordered U.S. District Court Judge Eugene Nickerson, who presided over the trials, to hold a hearing on the new material by Sept. 24.

One key matter of the hearing will determine whether any interviews with cops at the 70th Precinct or investigators could have impacted on prosecution witnesses' credibility, including key government witness, Officer Eric Turetzky. He testified at the federal trials that he saw Schwarz escort a half-naked and handcuffed Louima to the bathroom just before the Haitian immigrant was sodomized by Volpe with a wooden stick.

The judges cited in yesterday's decision the bombshell affidavit by mystery cop "Officer F,” who was one of the first to interview Turetzky. Police sources have identified "Officer F” as retired police Sgt. Patrick Walsh, who was one of the first to interview Turetzky when he came forward on Aug. 15, 1997.

Walsh now charges in a sealed affidavit that Turetzky was unable to identify the cop who had custody of Louima. According to the mystery cop, Turetzky was repeatedly unable to who had custody of Louima, "because he only saw them from the rear and Wiese and Schwarz look alike from that position,” wrote the judges, quoting Walsh's affidavit.

Walsh further charges in his affidavit: "Turetzky and offered to write a report on the matter; however the captain told him not to write the report.” Walsh further attested that two weeks later, a lieutenant from Brooklyn South Investigations Unit contacted him and Officer F told him of the details of his interview with Turetzky. "Officer F claims however, that no IAB or federal investigator contacted him thereafter,” the judges noted.

Nickerson has many options. He could order a new trial or deny it.

Prosecutors told the appeals panel last week that they deemed Officer F "not credible.” Reached for comment, Schwarz' lawyer at the second trial, Ronald Fischetti said, "I am chuckling and eagerly awaiting my hearing. ... They've asked the court to look at all the materials which we submitted. ... This is the kind of thing I absolutely would have liked to have had during the first and second trials.”

And William Muller, a spokesman for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Vinegrad said, "We are pleased that the court of appeals has established and orderly procedure for resolving this claim in an expeditious fashion.”