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#2272: Detective Tells of His Difficulty Informing His Peers... (fwd)
February 10, 2000 ____NY TIMES
Detective Tells of His Difficulty Informing His Peers in Louima
Assault Case _______By ALAN FEUER
n the days leading up to his sudden decision to tell Internal
Affairs investigators what he knew about the police assault on
Abner Louima, a Brooklyn detective struggled to overcome what he
called "the biggest hurdle" -- informing on his peers. "I heard the
investigation was started, I knew I had information," the detective,
Eric Turetzky, said during a recorded interview with police
investigators that was played yesterday at the trial of three
officers charged with covering up the attack on Mr. Louima in 1997.
"For two days, I had butterflies in my stomach. I couldn't sleep. I
couldn't eat." Detective Turetzky was hailed as a hero by city
officials last year for being the first police officer to break the
code of silence in the Louima case. His testimony was one of the crucial
elements that led Justin A. Volpe to enter his stunning midtrial plea
last May, admitting that he had sodomized Mr. Louima in the 70th
Precinct station house bathroom with a broken broomstick.
On the tape, Detective Turetzky was heard being asked why he had
sought out investigators from the Police Department's Internal
Affairs Bureau and had insisted on meeting with them at 5 a.m. on
Aug. 15, 1997, even though he had been scheduled for a meeting the next
day. "I made a decision to come forward," Detective Turetzky said,
according to a transcript. "I didn't want to wait another eight hours
and sit with butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to just get it over
with, do it. I didn't want to think about it anymore. I just wanted to
get it off my chest." Before the tape was played, Detective Turetzky
led the jury in Federal District Court in Brooklyn through his
recollection of what happened on the streets of Flatbush and at the 70th
Precinct station house on the night of the assault, Aug. 9, 1997. The
jurors are weighing whether the three defendants in the case -- Charles
Schwarz, Officer Thomas Bruder and Officer Thomas Wiese -- came up with
a plan to obstruct justice by lying about Mr. Schwarz's role in the
attack. Detective Turetzky's testimony barely touched on the question
of an obstruction plot and was virtually identical to the testimony he
gave last year at the previous trial. Still, the tape recording and his
statements on the witness stand shed new light on some of the
hardships he said he suffered as a result of coming forward.
Under questioning by Lauren Resnick, an assistant United States
attorney, Detective Turetzky, a skinny, articulate man with an easygoing
manner, testified that he was confronted by a police union delegate,
Officer Timothy Lee, at 3:30 a.m. a few days after the attack. Detective
Turetzky said he was coming out of his commander's office when Officer
Lee stopped him in the hall. "Officer Lee stood in front of me and
said, 'What are you doing in there?' " Detective Turetzky testified.
"You know what I'm doing in there," he said he answered. Officer Lee's
response, he added, was simple: " 'Why?' " The same morning, another
union delegate, Officer Damian Volpe, who is Justin Volpe's brother,
told Detective Turetzky that the precinct's officers had to "stick
together," he told the police in the interview. "Officer Volpe's brother
said to me, 'Just do the right thing,' which I interpreted as not what
I'm doing here today," Detective Turetzky said to Internal Affairs.
On cross-examination, Ronald Fischetti, a lawyer for Mr. Schwarz,
suggested that Detective Turetzky had rehearsed his statements with
police investigators before the tape was turned on. Mr. Fischetti,
who has a knack for asking tough questions without their seeming
tough, also indicated several instances in which Detective Turetzky
changed his story about Mr. Schwarz. At one point in the taped
interview, Detective Turetzky said that he was positive that he saw Mr.
Schwarz take Mr. Louima into the bathroom where the assault occurred. At
other times, however, he has testified that he saw Mr. Schwarz leading
Mr. Louima down a hallway to the bathroom, but not into it. In June, Mr.
Schwarz was convicted of violating Mr. Louima's civil rights, after
testimony that he held Mr. Louima down while Mr. Volpe rammed the broken
broomstick into Mr. Louima's rectum. Mr. Fischetti contends that Mr.
Schwarz never helped Mr. Volpe,who, he says, acted alone. The defense's
case rests on the argument that there was no conspiracy to exculpate Mr.
Schwarz because Mr. Schwarz is not culpable. The government contends
that Mr. Schwarz was the second attacker and that he conspired with
Officers Bruder and Wiese to get himself off the hook. Toward the end
of his testimony, Detective Turetzky was asked by Mr. Fischetti to
describe Justin Volpe. He replied that Mr. Volpe was a strange man who
used to wear red long johns over his uniform and, once, went out on
patrol in a fur coat covered with police patches and an officer's badge.
"If you know the TV show 'M*A*S*H,' he was the guy named Klinger,"
Detective Turetzky said. "He liked being the center of attention, liked
making you laugh. He liked being part of the group."