The New York Times

February 18, 2000


Volpe: Officer Innocent in Assault

Filed at 7:31 a.m. EST
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- An officer facing a life sentence for his role in the sodomizing of a Haitian immigrant in a police station bathroom had no part in the attack, a former colleague says.

Officer Justin Volpe testified on Thursday that Officer Charles Schwarz wasn't even in the room when Abner Louima was assaulted with a broken broomstick.

``I never saw Schwarz in the bathroom at any time,'' Volpe said repeatedly while testifying in federal court. ``When I was in the bathroom, the only officer who assaulted Mr. Louima was myself.''

Volpe said another officer, Thomas Wiese, was the only person present during the attack, one of the most shocking cases of police brutality in the city's history.

Volpe, sentenced to 30 years after pleading guilty last year to the 1997 assault, was the first defense witness in the trial of Schwarz, 34, Wiese, 34, and Thomas Bruder, 37. The three officers have been charged with conspiring to conceal Schwarz's role in the assault.

Schwarz faces a possible life sentence after his 1999 conviction for violating Louima's civil rights by holding him down during the attack.

Volpe, at his own sentencing last December, said for the first time that Wiese, not Schwarz, was the second officer in the bathroom.

On Thursday, Volpe, 27, testified: ``I want to do my time with a clear mind, with a clear conscience, and I can't live with myself and do my time in peace, knowing that another man is paying for the crime that I committed.''

Volpe said Wiese stood by the entire time, making no move to take part or intercede in the attack. The account conflicts sharply with Wiese's assertion, to detectives and Brooklyn district attorney investigators, that he intervened by dragging a prostrate, bleeding Louima from a toilet stall by his legs.

The trial is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.