New York Post
March 1, 2002

CHUCK AND ANDRA FINALLY GET TICKET OUT OF HELL

By STEVE DUNLEAVY

CHUCK SCHWARZ and his wife, Andra, yesterday emerged from five years in hell.

"We've been drowning," Andra told me yesterday. "We've finally come to the surface and can breathe air again.

"We now have great hope. We're back from the brink."

At 3 p.m., she had spoken by phone to Chuck, who's been languishing in the dismal Oklahoma City lockup where he'd been placed by a justice system gone mad.

Chuck had just learned that a three-judge panel tossed out his conviction in the Abner Louima case and ordered a new trial.

He may soon be back with his wife in their Staten Island home, out on bail.

"I was so worried about him, physically and mentally," Andra said.

When he got the news yesterday, "He was in shock," she said.

"I guess it was just like me when I heard about it this morning. I think both of us thought we were dreaming."

The only dreams for both Chuck and his wife have been nightmares since he was indicted five years ago and spent almost three years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement.

Andra said, "I have been so worried about him. He has been in solitary for so long, so visits are restricted. I haven't seen him since last month."

I couldn't believe it when Chuck - a good cop who served his city selflessly for years - was first incarcerated in a cage at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan.

I had witnessed one of the worst miscarriages of justice in the Western world.

I mean, I really couldn't believe it.

The judge, Eugene Nickerson, was close to death and senile. He'd go to sleep on the bench.

The prosecutor, Alan Vinegrad, threw the rule of law out the window with venom.

He made the trial a cruel farce.

Andra was more forgiving than I would have been.

"I don't want to criticize Mr. Vinegrad," she said.

"But I hope he hasn't sent other innocent people through this torture like he has with us."

And don't doubt it. This hero - who postponed his marriage to Andra to serve his country in the Gulf War - was deliberately tortured.

At one point, his persecutors realized he was so close to the brink, he was in danger of cracking up. So what did they do? They transferred him from the MCC in New York, where he was near his wife and family, to a prison in Massachusetts.

Yesterday, his lawyer, Ron Fischetti, said, "This is the greatest day of my professional life. When I spoke to him, he was in shock. He was very emotional.

"I told him, 'You're coming home, and the next time we're in court together, we will walk out together.' "

Chuck's appeals attorney, Diarmuid White, said simply, "Today is a day for justice."

The decision wasn't only about justice for Schwarz, who will get a new trial.

Officers Tommy Wiese and Tommy Bruder have been cleared unconditionally.

Tommy Wiese said, "I called Tommy Bruder. I got the answering machine. I yell over the machine, 'Get out of bed, you hump, and start living.'

"He wouldn't believe it. I kept on yelling at him. What a day."

For Tommy Bruder, it was bittersweet.

Three weeks ago, his mother passed away.

"The last words my mother said was, 'It's a pity I won't be here when you are out of this. But when I get up there, I'll fight even harder.'

"Thanks, Mom. You're my angel."

And Andra Schwarz also was giving thanks, saying:

"I want to thank God, the appeals-court judges, our lawyers and the New York Post, who crusaded from the very first day."