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#1361: Ex-NY Cop Gets 30 Years for Stationhouse Assault (fwd)
Monday December 13 12:50 PM ET
Ex-NY Cop Gets 30 Years for Stationhouse Assault By Jeanne King
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former police officer Justin Volpe was
sentenced to 30 years imprisonment on Monday for the 1997 sexual
torture of a Haitian immigrant, an assault that raised racial tensions
in New York and became a symbol of police brutality. Victim Abner
Louima and his disgraced torturer came face-to-face again at the
sentencing in a Brooklyn federal courtroom crowded with
emotional relatives of both men, more than two years after Volpe shoved
a broken stick into Louima's rectum in the bathroom of a precinct
stationhouse. ``I impose a sentence of 360 months in prison, five years
probation,'' U.S. District Court Judge Eugene Nickerson said in
sentencing Volpe. The judge could have sentenced Volpe to life
imprisonment without parole. As his trial neared an end in May and four
officers had broken the so-called ``blue wall of silence'' to testify
against him, Volpe, 27, pleaded guilty to the assault and violating
Louima's civil rights. He was dismissed from the New York Police
Department. In a five-minute statement to the court, Volpe said: ``I
betrayed Abner Louima's rights and I betrayed myself.'' Volpe, who has
been imprisoned since he pleaded guilty in May, added that he did not
come forward sooner because ``I was ashamed and I still am ashamed.''
The assault drew national and international attention to allegations of
police brutality by mostly white officers against black and Hispanic
residents. Volpe wept as he said, ``I'm going to prison ... it's a
humble experience and I'm 27 years old. I assure you prison is a humble
place.'' On June 8, a jury found another officer, Charles Schwarz,
guilty of taking part in the Aug. 9, 1997 sexual assault but acquitted
two officers accused of beating Louima in a patrol car the same night.
The jury also acquitted a fifth officer on charges of covering up the
assaults, which began after a street fracas outside a Brooklyn
nightclub. All the officers were white and Louima is black.
Louima also made a five-minute statement in court on Monday, saying
that on the night of the attack, ``I thought I was going to die.'' He
added, ``It is not for me to decide what the sentence should be.''
Louima however, said in a statement issued through his attorney before
Volpe's sentencing that he hoped the punishment would send ``a message
... to police officers all over the country that they will be held
accountable for their acts of brutality.''