New York Post
February 23, 2000


INNOCENCE COULD HAVE BEEN SEALED AT FIRST TRIAL

By MURRAY WEISS

A black courtroom observer had just heard Charles Schwarz tell a hushed courtroom yesterday he wasn't even inside the 70th Precinct station house when white cop Justin Volpe sodomized Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

"He sounded extremely credible to me," the gray-haired man said, adding he was monitoring the trial for a national community and gospel organization.

"To be completely honest, the government has a very weak and circumstantial case."

The man declined to identify himself further. But he understands what is becoming painfully clear with each passing day -- that Charles Schwarz may spend the rest of his life in jail for a crime he did not commit.

Volpe was a powerful witness last week for Schwarz, testifying for the first time that Schwarz -- convicted of holding Louima while Volpe attacked him -- was not in the precinct-house bathroom during the assault and that another officer, Thomas Wiese, was.

Prosecutors tried to shake Volpe, but mercifully surrendered after realizing Volpe was burying their case.

Until yesterday, no one had heard Schwarz's voice in court. He, like Volpe, did not testify in his own defense at the first trial.

Jurors at the first trial later said they would have acquitted Schwarz had they heard from Volpe. If they had heard from both men it is hard to believe Schwarz would have been convicted.

While both men arguably have self-interests in shading testimony, there was astonishing testimony yesterday from the most unlikely of sources -- one of the first Internal Affairs supervisors to interview Louima -- that would have sealed Schwarz' innocence had it been heard at the first trial.

Lt. Renaldo Daniels admitted he "mistakenly" made up information when he reported a second officer assaulted Louima and that he invented a description for that second cop.

"Where did you get a second officer? Did [Louima] give you a second cop?" Schwarz's lawyer, Ron Fischetti asked.

"No. It was a mistake," the lieutenant replied.

"Where did you get it from?"

"Nowhere."

Daniels' startling admissions were not harmless. His initial report, which he also admitted changing several times, served as a road map for the FBI-NYPD investigation.

Once it started, contradictory evidence and investigatory paths may have been ignored.

Most glaringly, Daniels admitted he never showed a police photo of Thomas Wiese to Louima, even after Wiese came forward just days after the attack and admitted walking into the bathroom to find Volpe -- alone -- with Louima.

The reason?

Volpe had been arrested. And so had Charles Schwarz.