March 8, 2002

Schwarz Savors First Day of Freedom

By Rocco Parascandola Staff Writer

(Newsday Photo/Robert Mecca)  

Ex-cop Chuck Schwarz spent his first full day as a free man side-by-side with his wife, talking with friends and relatives and marveling at a pleasure most probably take for granted — a breakfast of his own choosing: homemade pancakes in his mother’s Staten Island home.

“I slept in a normal bed, I got up around 9:30 or so and my sister came over with her boys and little girl and made breakfast,” Schwarz said. “It was nice. I’m very happy right now.”

Later, Schwarz traveled into Manhattan to see his lawyer, Ronald Fischetti.

On his trip over the Verrazano Bridge earlier this week, while in the custody of federal marshals, he looked shell-shocked.

“That’s what really sticks out most in my mind so far, looking over and seeing where the Twin Towers used to be,” Schwarz said. “The day it happened someone was screaming about it and I turned on my radio and listened.”

Several times Friday, Schwarz said well-wishers stopped to congratulate him, though he noted jokingly that most people, “typical New Yorkers,” were in too much a rush to notice him.

Schwarz also spent some time reading the 68-page decision, but said he is still taking matters one day at a time.

Fischetti, for his part, is determined to let Schwarz savor his joy.

“He’s just thrilled to be out for the moment,” Fischetti said. “I’m not going to attempt to tell him about what might be coming up. He’s just really glad to be back home. He needs time to be surrounded by family and to decompress a bit.”

Schwarz stepped into freedom Thursday afternoon, sprung on $1 million bail, after nearly three years behind bars for the 1997 attack on Abner Louima, an act of brutality in which Schwarz had steadfastly denied participating.

Thursday night Fischetti paid off a debt, treating Schwarz to a juicy steak at Montebello, an Italian restaurant in midtown. Schwarz also enjoyed pasta and salad.

He spent the remainder of the evening with his wife at his mother’s home, where his wife, Andra, had moved after his soaring legal costs forced her to sell their home.

The couple will continue staying there, Fischetti said, as part of the terms of his release limiting him to the five boroughs. Schwarz may ask for permission from Judge Reena Raggi to live in New Jersey or to take a New England vacation.

U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad, who had asked Raggi to release Schwarz under house arrest, told Raggi he may file new conspiracy charges in the wake of a Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week to toss Schwarz's conviction in the case.

The decision also cleared him of plotting to obstruct a federal grand jury with former officers Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder, both of who may apply for reinstatement to the NYPD.

The appellate judges did say, however, that they believe there was evidence for a conviction of broader conspiracy charges.

Justin Volpe, who admitted to sodomizing Louima with a wooden stick, has said Schwarz wasn’t with him during the attack inside the bathroom of the 70th Precinct.

He will likely be called to testify in the likelihood of another trial, the preparation for which has only just started, Fischetti said.

“Probably next week we’ll talk about putting together a trial team,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”