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#1694: Schwarz seeks to clear name at Louima obstruction trial (fwd)


Sunday January 02 01:41 PM EST
 Schwarz seeks to clear name at Louima obstruction trial
 By Bryan Robinson, Court TV

 BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Court TV) For Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese, their
trial on federal obstruction of justice charges in the Abner Louima case
is the latest phase of a nightmare that should have ended with their
civil rights acquittal last June. But Charles Schwarz sees the trial as
an opportunity to clear his name. Since his conviction, Schwarz has
maintained his innocence and plans not only to beat the obstruction
charges but also prove that he did not help his former partner Justin
 Volpe sodomize Louima.  Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in
the latest trial involving the three officers. Federal prosecutors
believe Bruder, Wiese and Schwarz lied about their knowledge of Louima's
beating and tried to protect one of their own in the two years
 after the Haitian immigrant's sodomy. According to the prosecution,
Bruder and Wiese lied to investigators in an attempt to
 protect Schwarz. Bruder and Wiese were accused of beating Louima on the
way to the 70th Precinct on Aug. 7, 1997 but were acquitted of the
charges at trial in June. 
 Schwarz was accused of standing guard at a bathroom door and holding
Louima down while Volpe sodomized him with a broken wooden stick. Jurors
convicted Schwarz of civil rights violations and conspiracy. Since then,
however, Schwarz's attorneys have said that jurors convicted the wrong
man  and they have received support from Justin Volpe. 
 Currently serving a 30-year sentence, Volpe pleaded guilty during the
civil rights trial to sodomizing Louima after several witnesses 
including several fellow officers  testified that he had bragged about
beating and sodomizing Louima and even showed off the wooden stick he
used. During his plea, Volpe told the court outside the presence of the
jury that another officer was with him during the assault, but he did
not name the officer. [Jurors never heard about Volpe's statement.] 

 Volpe's attorney, Marvyn Kornberg, claims his client told prosecutors
that the other officer was Wiese, not Schwarz. It remains to be seen how
 or if  Volpe may become involved in the obstruction trial. 
 "This is going to be a hell of a trial," said Schwarz's attorney Ronald
Fischetti at Volpe's sentencing December 13. "We're going to prove that
an innocent man has been wrongfully convicted, that Mr. Schwarz was not
in the bathroom with Volpe. He was checking on Mr. Louima's belongings
in a separate part of the police station."  No one, not even Louima, was
able to positively identify Schwarz at trial as being the second man
involved in the attack. However, Louima has consistently said the driver
of the patrol car that brought him to the police station held him down
for Volpe. Records show that Schwarz was scheduled to be the driver of
the car on the night of the attack.  Prosecutors have dismissed Kornberg
and Volpe as not credible because they previously suggested that Louima
was injured during a homosexual act. Wiese's attorney, Joseph Tacopina,
has insisted Volpe's allegations are unbelievable and motivated
 by a desire for revenge against his client because Wiese was the first
to cooperate with authorities and turned Volpe in. 

 A potential witness prosecutors may call against Bruder, Wiese and
Schwarz is former police union delegate Anthony Abbate. Prosecutors
believe Schwarz called Abbate shortly after the attack on Louima and
sought his help in crafting a false story for investigators. Fischetti
has reportedly acknowledged that Abbate and Schwarz did talk over the
phone after the attack. But, he says, the conversation was only talk
between friends and not an attempted cover-up.  Sgt. Michael Bellomo,
another officer accused of trying to cover up his fellow officers'
alleged crimes, was acquitted in June and will not face another trial.
Schwarz, Bruder, and Wiese could each face five years in prison on the
obstruction charges. In his civil rights criminal case, Schwarz could
face up to life in prison when he is sentenced on a later date.