April 4, 2002

Schwarz Enters Not Guilty Plea

Former officer faces allegations of perjury

By Ron Howell, Tony DeStefano and Pete Bowles Staff Writers

(Newsday Photo /Alan Raia)
  Ex-NYPD officer Charles Schwarz and his wife Andra after his arraignment in Brooklyn on a new perjury charge in the Abner Louima torture case.

Former officer Charles Schwarz, whose two convictions in the 1997 bathroom torture of Abner Louima were recently overturned, pleaded not guiltyyesterday to new charges that he lied when he testified that he had no role in the attack.

After entering the plea in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, Schwarz said he would not accept any kind of deal with prosecutors even if it allowed him no more prison time.

"This case has consumed five years of my life, and I have been saying from day one I'm innocent," said Schwarz, who was convicted of a civil rights violation in 1999 and of obstruction of justice in 2000. "I intend to fight this through. I was not in that bathroom. Nothing the government says or does is going to change that fact."

Schwarz, 36, who served 33 months in prison, was charged with two counts of perjury last week. He is free on $1 million bond.

Prosecutors, in court papers filed yesterday, asked that Schwarz be tried on the perjury counts at the same time as the civil rights charges because the new allegations "are related to the same acts and substantially require the same proof." Judge Reena Raggi made no ruling on the application, but set an April 12 hearing.

The new charges allege that Schwarz lied to a jury when he testified in his own defense on Feb. 23, 2000, that he did not escort Louima to the bathroom in the 70th Precinct station house and that he was not present during the attack.

Schwarz was charged at that trial with conspiring with fellow officers Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese to lie to investigators in an effort to cover up Schwarz's role in the attack. He was accused of holding Louima while Justin Volpe sodomized the Haitian immigrant with a broken broom handle.

Volpe, who is serving a 30-year sentence after having pleaded guilty to torturing Louima, testified at Schwarz's second trial that Schwarz was not in the bathroom. But the jury rejected the version of events offered by Schwarz and Volpe.

Schwarz's attorney, Ronald Fischetti, called the perjury case "nothing more than a malicious prosecution" and said it should be thrown out.

He accused prosecutors of bringing the perjury charges to intimidate potential witnesses. "It is a warning that anyone who takes the witness stand and says Charles Schwarz is innocent will be indicted for perjury," Fischetti said.

Schwarz, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison on the earlier convictions, faces up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted of perjury.

In a ruling last month, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the 2000 obstruction convictions of Schwarz, Bruder and Wiese. Prosecutors have indicated they may bring new charges against Bruder and Wiese.

In another development yesterday, the Second Circuit ordered a hearing in the case of former police officer Francisco Rosario, who was sentenced to three years' probation last year after being convicted of lying to investigators about Louima's torture.

Rosario admitted that he lied when he first told prosecutors he did not see who escorted Louima out of the bathroom. He later told prosecutors that he did see someone but that it was not Volpe. Rosario said he changed his story after a federal prosecutor told him he would not be prosecuted if he told the truth.

The court said a hearing should be held on whether Rosario was given immunity and whether he should have been tried. The U.S. attorney's office, in a statement, said Rosario had not been granted immunity.

Patricia Hurtado contributed to this story.