New York Post
March 13, 2000


NO TRUE JUSTICE UNTIL LOUIMA THREE GO FREE

By STEVE DUNLEAVY

At a time when the city needs more than a few good men, we have assured ourselves of losing three of the best.

"I have given up on the system -- it's just not working," said Officer Tommy Bruder, one of the Brooklyn Three cops who were railroaded in the sad case of Abner Louima.

"I have been shot at three times," he told me. "Once, someone loosed off two full clips from a machine gun at me. I guess I was lucky that night."

But luck ran out for Bruder, Tommy Wiese and Chuck Schwarz after two juries sent them down the river as if Niagara Falls were the propelling force.

The wheels of justice seemingly have come to a grinding halt, even as my colleague Murray Weiss yesterday revealed that a juror in the first Louima trial is having nightmares over convicting Schwarz for holding Louima down during the horrific bathroom attack.

She now admits, "We convicted the wrong man."

So, what will happen this week?

Be certain that Judge Eugene Nickerson, who presided over the travesty of justice that ended up with Schwarz convicted of trying to cover up his role in the attack, will sleep soundly.

But Chuck Schwarz, who has been moved to a new federal facility, won't sleep soundly after the painful collapse that sent him to the hospital.

His mother, Estelle, said yesterday, "He is feeling better now and he's got hope back. The new facility in Devon, Mass., has given him a bigger cell, a desk -- and he has access to a shower. The trouble is, he shouldn't be there at all.

"The juries seem to listen to the first thing they hear. What happened to all the stories about Louima being beaten up before the bathroom? Now they find out that it didn't happen."

The tragedy is that when this is all over and the cops are eventually set free, as I solemnly believe they will be, three great men will never think of being police officers again.

"Getting shot at?" said Bruder. "That's part of the job. I would have rather taken a bullet than have to go through this humiliation."

"The sad part about this," said Wiese, "is it's now a little bit too late. Cops like us being cuffed after giving everything we had to the force? I wish no ill to any of the jurors, but surely, they have to understand that something like this could happen to them.

"If it was all over tomorrow, I'm sorry to say, I wouldn't think of being a cop again."

And that is the greatest tragedy of all.

At a time when the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose got his own little problems with the law right now, has effectively fueled the voices that would emasculate the Street Crime Unit, perhaps he's got what he wanted.

Homicides in the high-crime areas of New York are climbing back to where they were in the dark days -- and the innocents will die.

I don't believe that that's what Sharpton wanted, but dammit, that's what has happened.

Sure, I've covered literally dozens of stories in Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi where they lock up the wrong guys.

New York? Rarely.

My colleague Jack Newfield battled for a year and a half to free a young Brooklyn guy named Bobby McLaughlin, who served 71/2 years in jail for a murder he never committed.

That was in 1986, and cases of "the wrong man" are rare in New York City -- because we are fairer and we are smarter.

But Nickerson and two juries were neither fair nor smart -- in fact, they were downright biased and as abjectly thick as two short planks.

Sure, Chuck Schwarz will get out of jail. He will be vindicated, as will Tommy Bruder and Tommy Wiese.

And I don't care if I write this story until my fingers are arthritic -- they will be free.

But the City of New York will have a blight on its reputation for smartness and fairness for the rest of judicial history.

You can't have a jury, as we did in this last trial, which is so stacked that they go in hating cops. I pray none of those jurors will need a cop.

But if I wore a uniform, I would not be too anxious to face a bullet to save their sorry butts.