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#2748: 2 more officers face charges in Louima case (fwd)
2 more officers face charges in Louima case
By TOM HAYS, Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Not content with convictions in two cases, federal
prosecutors plan to put two more police officers on trial for allegedly
lying about the torture of a Haitian immigrant in the bathroom of a
Brooklyn stationhouse. On Monday, white ex-patrolman Charles Schwarz,
34, and officers Thomas Wiese, 36, and Thomas Bruder, 33, were
convicted of trying to conceal Schwarz's role in the notorious attack on
the black Abner Louima in the summer of 1997. A jury had already found
Schwarz guilty last year of holding down the handcuffed Louima while
another officer, Justin Volpe, sodomized him with a broken broom
stick in a fit of rage.
The three defendants face up to five years in prison for
obstruction of justice. Schwarz also is awaiting a possible life
sentence in the assault case. No sentencing date was set.Two more
officers, Rolando Aleman and Francisco Rosario, are scheduled to go on
trial later this month as part of federal prosecutors' ongoing offensive
against the so-called blue wall of silence, an unspoken code among
rank-and-file officers to never inform on each other. Monday's verdict
''should send a message within the police department that there is no
greater betrayal of the badge than to ensnare a fellow officer in a web
of lies and deceit,'' U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said.
Aleman and Rosario, both members of a plainclothes unit,were in the
stationhouse when Louima was assaulted.Court papers say that when first
confronted by federal agents, they denied seeing anything suspicious.
Aleman cut off questioning by saying he was not a snitch,but he later
admitted seeing an officer leading Louima --his pants at his ankles --
to a holding cell, court papers said.The latest conviction came in the
wake of an Albany jury's acquittal of four white officers who killed
Amadou Diallo,who was black, in a hail of 41 bullets, and it triggered
an emotional outburst by the defendants and their supporters.
Attorneys for the three men said they would appeal.Bruder's lawyer,
Stuart London, suggested the outcome of the Diallo case and the flood of
protests and public debate that followed may have put pressure on the
anonymous jury in the Brooklyn case, which was composed of six blacks,
five whites and one Hispanic.''It's hard to ignore the post-Diallo,
anti-police climate that resides in this city,'' London said.
As he was led out of the courtroom, Schwarz could be heard loudly
cursing. Wiese and Bruder, who are still free on $100,000 bail, both
wept.''You tell the truth, and this is what happens,'' Bruder ranted.
At trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad accused the trio of
lying to investigators by claiming Schwarz was never in the bathroom. He
offered phone records as evidence that the cops, who rarely spoke prior
to the incident, had scores of conversations to ''get their stories
straight.''The defense sought, in effect, to retry the first case and
prove Schwarz couldn't have participated in the assault -- a claim
supported by the dramatic testimony of both Volpe and Schwarz.
Volpe, serving 30 years after pleading guilty to attacking Louima,
testified that Wiese was present but made no move to join the assault or
try to stop it.''I never saw Schwarz in the bathroom at any time,''
Volpe told the jury, adding that he could not serve his time ''with
a clear conscience ... knowing that another man is paying for the crime
that I committed.'' Schwarz said he had only accompanied Louima from the
patrol car to the front desk of the precinct. At the time of the
assault, he claimed to be outside conducting a routine search of his
patrol car. U.S. District Judge Eugene Nickerson had instructed jurors
that by law they ''need not determine the extent of any role the
defendant Schwarz may have played in the sexual assault.''Instead, the
judge said, ''You need only determine whether one or more of the
defendants conspired to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation by
providing false or misleading information in an effort to exculpate''