New York 1 News

March 7, 2002

Former Officer Schwarz Released On $1M Bail

Charles Schwarz is now a free man, after a federal judge granted the former police officer whose conviction in the Abner Louima case was overturned last week $1 million bail at a hearing in Brooklyn Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Rena Raggi ruled Schwarz, who was convicted in 1999 of violating Louima’s civil rights, could be freed by posting the bail. Schwarz was then released after his mother put up her home as collateral.

Schwarz spoke to the media following his release, where he expressed his joy at being freed from prison.

“Today is a great day,” Schwarz said Thursday. “I’ve been waiting for this day for 33 months, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those people that supported me during this time. I’ve received thousands of letters, and they really helped sustain me.”

However, Schwarz is not off the hook yet. The U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn will retry Schwarz on civil rights charges, and prosecutors say they may seek to add additional charges.

Jury selection in that trial will begin the week of June 3, and the trial is scheduled to begin on June 24.

Louima, who moved to Florida last year, also spoke about the appeals court decision Thursday. The Haitian immigrant told reporters he wished he didn’t have to dredge up memories of the attack, but that he would do everything in his power to see justice served in the case.

“I wish to express my disappointment with the recent decision of the court of appeals,” Louima said Thursday from Florida. “I always believed in our system of justice, and what that means to me is full justice. I had hoped after all these years to go on with my life, and unfortunately that is not the case. But I will fully cooperate with the prosecutor in any potential criminal prosecution.”

Louima was beaten and sodomized with a broken broomstick by former police officer Justin Volpe in the bathroom of Brooklyn’s 70th Precinct stationhouse in August 1997. Volpe pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

In granting Schwarz’s bail request this morning, Judge Raggi ruled the former officer, who lives in Staten Island, cannot leave New York City. He is now staying at an undisclosed location somewhere in the five boroughs.

Schwarz was moved from an Oklahoma prison yesterday, where he has already served two and a half years of a 15-year sentence.

The former NYPD patrolman is one of three officers whose convictions in the case were overturned by a federal appeals court last week. Judge Raggi also ruled Thursday that Schwarz cannot have any contact with the two other officers whose convictions were reversed.

Schwarz was convicted of violating Louima’s civil rights by allegedly holding the handcuffed prisoner down while the assault took place. Fellow officers Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder were also convicted of obstructing justice in the case.

The appeals court last week overturned Schwarz’s conviction on the grounds he was denied effective counsel and that the jury in the original trial was exposed to prejudicial information.

Bruder and Wiese also had their convictions overturned on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence that the officers obstructed justice. They will not be re-tried on the original charges.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss whether his office will file New York State obstruction of justice charges against the three men. Hynes said if the U.S. Attorney's office chooses not to prosecute, he will meet with those attorneys and then review the evidence before taking any action.

“I'm confronted with the potential that the law was violated in my county, subsequent to that turnover,” said Hynes. “The law being violated is hindering prosecution, and I have an absolute obligation to investigate charges of hindering prosecution committed in my county.”

Hynes turned the case over to federal prosecutors in 1998 because federal penalties carry stiffer sentences.