New York Daily News


March 1, 2002


A Loyal Wife's Day Of Disbelief & Joy

By GREG WILSON and PATRICE O'SHAUGHNESSY
Daily News Staff Writers

or 4 1/2 years Andra Schwarz worked to exonerate her husband, stuffing thousands of envelopes, poring over reams of paperwork and appearing at fund-raisers to pay for legal costs, the strain etched on her face.

But yesterday, the dark-haired, petite legal secretary was ebullient, her face shining with joy as she sipped champagne in her lawyer's office to celebrate what could be the fruition of the "Free Chuck Schwarz" crusade, the slogan emblazoned on the T-shirt she wore.

  Thomas Wiese
  Andra Schwarz

"It's overwhelming to think he'll be home next week. There's so much to do and say," she said.

Through two trials that ended in conviction, and three years of seeing her husband, Charles, grow more depressed each time he was placed in solitary confinement, Andra Schwarz never stopped believing in his innocence.

But yesterday, when lawyer Ronald Fischetti called to say the former cop's convictions in the Abner Louima torture case had been overturned, she blurted, "Oh my God, are you serious?"

Then disbelief turned to joy for her and the rest of the Schwarz family.

"We're all happy," said John Schwarz, the cop's younger brother. "I just hope it doesn't go to another trial."

Andra Schwarz started a groundswell to free her husband, winning support from such disparate quarters as The Village Voice and former Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari. A juror who helped convict the former cop even went on "60 Minutes" to defend him.

Money Woes

Andra Schwarz had to sell the house the couple had hoped to raise a family in and lives in an apartment at her in-laws' home, faced with paying $270,000 in fines and appellate attorney fees of more than $130,000, as well as other legal costs.

She said yesterday that her husband kept his faith in the justice system. "He said, 'I'm innocent, the facts are on my side.' But he didn't get a fair judge, he didn't get a fair jury," she said.

Fischetti said he called the former cop in a federal lockup in Oklahoma to tell him the news. "He was stunned," Fischetti said. "He was extremely happy and quite emotional. He's been waiting for this day for so long.

"This time next week, he will be home for dinner, I guarantee that," said Fischetti, who will request that Schwarz remain free on bail pending a new trial.

John Schwarz, who was cared for by his brother after being partially disabled in a swimming accident, said prosecutors knew Charles Schwarz was an innocent man. "They could have saved themselves and the city a lot of heartache," John Schwarz said.