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#2210: Jury selected, openings expected Monday in Louima obstruction trial (fwd)


Updated February 4, 2000, 2:34 p.m. ET 
Jury selected, openings expected Monday in Louima obstruction trial 

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Court TV) After a month of jury selection, opening
statements are set to begin Monday in the trial of three officers      
accused of orchestrating an attempted cover-up in the Abner Louima    
case. Charles Schwarz, Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese are charged with
obstruction of justice. 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,
however, was convicted of civil rights violations and conspiracy.       
While Bruder and Wiese may see the obstruction trial as another chapter
 in an ongoing nightmare, Schwarz sees it 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. Schwarz
was accused of standing guard at a bathroom door and holding Louima down
while Volpe sodomized him with a broken wooden stick. Schwarz's
attorneys have said that jurors convicted the wrong man  and the      
defense has received support from Justin Volpe. 
Currently serving a 30-year sentence, Volpe pleaded guilty during the
civil rights trial. He entered his plea 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. Kornberg 
also says he notified Stephen Worth, Schwarz' attorney during the civil
 rights trial, of Volpe's claim. But Worth, contending that Volpe had no
 credibility, decided not to call the disgraced officer as a witness for
his client.   "This is going to be a hell of a trial," said Schwarz's
new 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. Fischetti reportedly plans to cast
doubt on the authenticity of audiotaped and written accounts of
interviews Louima gave to investigators. He may call audiotape expert
Ernest Aschkenasy, who will suggest that an audiotaped statement Louima
gave while hospitalized was doctored or  not the original tape.
According to Fischetti, various stops and whistles of the tape suggest
that portions of the interview were taped by  or perhaps pieced
together  from separate recorders. Fischetti also has indicated that a
document expert, Peter Tytell, would testify that erase marks and
typeovers on a typewritten account of the interview with Louima indicate
that it had been changed. 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. The jury who will decide the officers' fate
consists of six  African-Americans, one Hispanic and five whites. Five
whites and one Hispanic make up the six alternates. If convicted of the
obstruction charges, Schwarz, Bruder and Wiese could each face five
years in prison. In his civil rights criminal case, Schwarz could face
up to life in prison when he is sentenced on a later date.