New York Daily News

July 27, 2001

Big Break for Louima Cop

Schwarz evidence review ordered

By MICHELE McPHEE
Daily News Staff Writer

C

harles Schwarz's fight for a new trial gained momentum yesterday when a federal appeals court ordered the trial judge to determine if prosecutors suppressed evidence in their bid to convict him in the Abner Louima torture case.

  Schwarz
 
Charles Schwarz

The decision by the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals could result in a new trial for Schwarz, who has been imprisoned since his 1997 arrest and is serving a 15-year sentence in a federal prison.

"We're gratified that the Court of Appeals has taken our argument seriously," said Schwarz's attorney, Ronald Fischetti.

Schwarz's wife, Andra, who has campaigned for his freedom since his conviction, said, "We were very glad to hear the good news. We are very happy that the judges took all the different statements into account" because they undercut the prosecution's main witness.

  Andra Schwarz
 
Andra Schwarz

As of last night, she had been unable to tell her husband about the development yet because "he's in solitary." The questioned evidence includes a sworn statement by retired Sgt. Pat Walsh, who discredits Officer Eric Turetzky, a key prosecution witness.

Turetzky testified he saw Schwarz lead Louima into Brooklyn's 70th Precinct stationhouse bathroom shortly before the 1997 attack on the Haitian immigrant.

In a sealed affidavit, Walsh claimed that six days after the assault on Louima, Turetzky told him that he was "unsure who brought Louima to the bathroom." Walsh, who was assigned to the Brooklyn South investigations unit, was one of the first supervisors to speak with Turetzky after Louima was assaulted by former cop Justin Volpe.

  Louima
 
Abner Louima

"Turetzky said he saw either Officer Thomas Wiese or Charles Schwarz walking Louima toward the bathroom, but Turetsky could not say which officer it was because he only saw them from the rear, and Wiese and Schwarz look alike from that position," Walsh claimed in his sworn testimony.

Fischetti has argued Schwarz's convictions should be thrown out, saying federal prosecutors "intimidated" and "coached" witnesses. "It's been two long years," Fischetti said. "And this is a very significant development that will lead to the proof that Chuck Schwarz is innocent."

Schwarz was convicted in 1999 of holding Louima down as Volpe sodomized him with a stick. Last year, he was convicted at a second trial of conspiring to cover up his role.

Prosecutors said they support yesterday's decision. "We're pleased that the Court of Appeals has established an orderly procedure for resolving this claim in an expeditious fashion," said a spokesman for the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office.

Louima refused to comment on the court's decision, saying he didn't know enough about it.

His attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, called the appeals court's decision "purely procedural" and said his client will await the outcome of Federal Judge Eugene Nickerson's decision, which he has until Sept. 24 to file.

"Mr. Louima has spoken from the witness stand, told the jury what he saw and what he believed, and two juries found Mr. Schwarz guilty," Rubenstein said.

With Patrice O'Shaughnessy