New York Daily News

March 1, 2002

Sorrow and Joy At Louima Ruling

By LESLIE CASIMIR, LISA L. COLANGELO and BILL HUTCHINSON
Daily News Staff Writers

Promises of protests and champagne toasts flowed yesterday as the tossing of convictions of three cops in the Abner Louima torture case prompted starkly different reactions.

While Louima and his supporters blasted the Court of Appeals' decision as a setback for police brutality victims, friends and relatives of the cops saw it as vindication of three men.

"It's a sweet day when you can show the government was wrong," said Stuart London, the attorney for ex-Officer Thomas Bruder, one of the three whose convictions were overturned.

But for Louima, who had started a new life in South Florida, the news was unsettling. While he thought he had closed a horrific chapter in his life, "unfortunately, it seems that is not the case," the Haitian immigrant said.

Louima's uncle, the Rev. Philius Nicolas of Flatbush, Brooklyn, said the decision signals "that justice is not for everyone."

"The message that this judgement sends to the Haitian community — to immigrants as a whole — is that they [the police] can continue to mistreat us," Nicolas said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton vowed to organize demonstrations. "This is something out of a fiction novel rather than a judicial chamber," he said.

Many of Louima's old Brooklyn neighbors also felt betrayed by the ruling.

"I'm Haitian, and it really hurts. People don't do that to animals. This was a human being," said Marie Joseph, 55, of Canarsie. "It doesn't just hurt the Haitian people. It hurts everybody."

All Charges Nixed

The appeals court threw out the obstruction of justice convictions against former NYPD cops Charles Schwarz, Thomas Wiese and Bruder. It also reversed Schwarz's conviction for allegedly violating Louima's civil rights.

"The whole case was just so obviously unjust," said Schwarz's wife, Andra, who celebrated the ruling with a champagne toast.

As he praised the court decision, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch called for the NYPD to rehire the three cops.

"We hope the Police Department has the courage to make that same decision to allow these people to go on with their lives," he said.

Commissioner Raymond Kelly declined comment on the ruling.

Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday's decision does not erase the "barbaric abuse" that befell Louima, who was tortured in a Brooklyn police stationhouse bathroom in 1997.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was in office at the time of the attack on Louima, added, "This case is still before the court, where it will ultimately be resolved."

With Mike Claffey and Michele McPhee