[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#2702: Anxious Weekend After False Alarm (fwd)


 Anxious Weekend After False Alarm  By ALAN FEUER NY TIMES

The rumor started at 3 p.m. on Friday: the jury had decided, a verdict
in the Abner Louima conspiracy trial was in. All the signs were there.
Extra United States marshals were packed in the courtroom, in Federal
District Court in Brooklyn. Uniformed officers were massed outside the
courthouse door. Officials of the patrolmen's union waited in their
double-breasted suits in the hallway. Government prosecutors assigned to
other cases were stopping by. Even the three defendants accused in the
trial -- Charles Schwarz,Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese -- had gotten
word. Mr.Schwarz, convicted last year of taking part in the attack on
Mr. Louima, was in custody in an unseen holding area in the back of the
courthouse. But Officers Bruder and Wiese, both acquitted in the       
previous trial, sat on benches in the hallway, their heads hung low,   
their families at their sides. By 4:30 p.m., the crowd milling anxiously
outside the courtroom filed inside without prompting -- as if on a
secret cue. On everyone's lips was the fact that precisely a week ago,
at nearly the same time, a state jury in Albany had acquitted the four
police officers in the Amadou Diallo murder trial.  When Judge Eugene H.
Nickerson, who is presiding in the case,finally entered and rose to the
bench at 4:50 p.m., the courtroom was  as silent as stone. Then Judge
Nickerson said, "The jury has asked to go home five minutes early
today," and that was it -- the rumor was exposed as a false alarm.     
"This is killing me," Mr. Bruder said once court was adjourned. "I   
went through waiting for a verdict last trial. I just went through     
waiting for another now. And Monday I have to come back and do it      
again." He blinked his eyes. "Yeah, that'll be the third time."

Beneath the Rivalry 

Having spent so much time together -- albeit on different sides of the 
aisle -- the defense team and the prosecution have developed a tense but
respectful relationship, much like the coyote and the sheep dog in the
old Warner Brothers cartoon who greet each other politely at the time
clock every morning, then batter and bruise each other all day on the
job. On Friday, Ronald Fischetti, Mr. Schwarz's lawyer, came over to   
spend a few minutes chatting with the reporters gathered in the front
row of the courtroom -- as he is wont to do from time to time. The     
little discussion caught the eye of Alan Vinegrad, the chief prosecutor
in the case, who has been engaged in a good-natured but sometimes acid
rivalry with Mr. Fischetti from the start of the trial. As befits a
federal prosecutor, Mr. Vinegrad rarely speaks to the press and hides
his sense of humor behind a fierce courtroom demeanor. But as Mr.
Fischetti told a story of court battles past, Mr. Vinegrad walked up
beside him holding a handwritten sign that ribbed his opponent in a
jesting spirit. The sign consisted of a single word: "Shameless." Hiding
in Plain  Sight? 
 Proof of the Salvatore Gravano Interconnectedness Theorem: Friday's
online edition of The New York Post accompanied its article on the trial
with photographs of two of the defendants accompanied by identifying
captions. But there was a problem. A picture identified as being of
Officer Wiese was instead of Mr.Graravano, the gangland  better known as
Sammy the Bull. The gaffe injected a note of lightness in an otherwise
leaden  morning of jury deliberations. Lawyers and spectators joked that
the  federal government had placed Mr. Gravano back in the witness   
protection program, this time in a role where no one would think
to       look for him -- as a police officer. Before he saw a printout
of the mixed-up photographs, Joseph Tacopina, Officer Wiese's lawyer,
seemed stricken when asked if he was now representing Mr. Gravano. But
Officer Wiese -- who for the record looks nothing like Mr. Gravano --
did not appear overly concerned about the mistake.