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#2635: Louima Conspiracy Case Goes to Jury (fwd)


March 1, 2000   Louima Conspiracy Case Goes to Jury

A jury began deliberations today in the case of three Brooklyn police
officers accused of conspiring to cover up the role of one officer in
the assault on Abner Louima. The federal judge presiding over the trial
instructed the jurors that they could convict the defendants of lying to
the authorities even if they are not convinced that the officer accused
of taking part in the attack was actually involved. The jury charge by
Judge Eugene H. Nickerson is a victory for federal prosecutors because
it allows the panel to find the three officers -- Charles Schwarz,
Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese --guilty of covering up Mr. Schwarz's
role in the attack, even if they think Mr. Schwarz might be innocent, as
he claims. From the outset of the trial in Federal District Court in
Brooklyn, the government has argued that Mr. Schwarz restrained Mr.
Louima as he was tortured and then, in a blizzard of telephone calls,
forged a pact with Officer Bruder and Officer Wiese to craft a false
story to get himself off the hook. "In determining whether one or more
of the defendants are guilty of conspiring to obstruct justice, you need
not determine the extent of any role the defendant Schwarz may have
played in the sexual assault," Judge Nickerson told the jury. But the
judge also counseled the panel that any evidence suggesting that Mr.
Schwarz was, in fact, inside the restroom of the 70th Precinct station
house as Mr.Louima was attacked was not, in itself, sufficient to
convict the three men of having hatched a cover-up plot. Although Mr.
Schwarz was found guilty last year of pinning Mr. Louima to the floor
while another officer, Justin A. Volpe, thrust a broken broomstick into
his rectum, the question of Mr. Schwarz's role was a focal point of the
current trial. The prosecution presented witnesses, including Mr. Louima
himself,who suggested that Mr. Schwarz was indeed in the bathroom on the
night of the assault, Aug. 9, 1997. The defense put on a case -- based
 on the testimony of both Mr. Schwarz and Mr. Volpe -- that rested on
the supposition that the defendants were telling the truth when they
said that Mr. Schwarz was not in the bathroom and therefore there was no
conspiracy to lie on his behalf.