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#4215: Last Trial Under Way in Louima Assault Case (fwd)
June 6, 2000 Last Trial Under Way in Louima Assault Case
By ALAN FEUER NY TIMES
The third and final criminal trial stemming from the attack on Abner
Louima opened yesterday as prosecutors asserted that a police officer
had lied to federal investigators about what he saw inside in a
Brooklyn station house the night Mr. Louima was brutally assaulted
there nearly three years ago.The officer, Francisco Rosario, told "one
false story after another" about what he knew of the attack on Mr.
Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized with a broken broomstick
inside the station house in August 1997, said Alan Vinegrad, the chief
prosecutor in the case. Mr. Vinegrad told the jury in Federal District
Court in Brooklyn that Officer Rosario first lied to federal agents in
September 1997 by saying he was not inside the 70th Precinct station
house during the attack and its aftermath. Two months later, after he
admitted that he had been there, Officer Rosario lied again about which
officer led Mr. Louima, moaning and with his pants down around his
knees, into the station house's cell area, Mr. Vinegrad said. The
government contends that the officer who escorted Mr. Louima
into the cell was Justin A. Volpe, who is now serving 30 years after
pleading guilty to committing the attack. Another officer, Charles
Schwarz, was convicted last June of helping Mr. Volpe torture Mr.
Louima and was found guilty anew in March of conspiring with two
accomplices -- Officers Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese -- to cover up
the assault. Officer Rosario, 35, was never charged in the attack and,
in fact, was never even assigned to the 70th Precinct. He was a member
of the department's Street Crime Unit who happened to be inside the
station house that night doing the paperwork for a prisoner. His
partner, Officer Rolando Aleman, pleaded guilty in April to virtually
the same charges that Officer Rosario is now fighting. The government
contends that Officer Rosario tried to extricate himself by claiming
that he was outside the station house when the assault occurred,
"getting a breath of fresh air," as Mr. Vinegrad put it. Mr. Vinegrad
also argued that Officer Rosario had obscured "the search for the truth"
by saying he had seen Officer Bruder-- and not Mr. Volpe -- lead Mr.
Louima into the cell room moments after the attack. Richard Levitt, the
officer's lawyer, began his own opening statement by admitting that his
client had made a mistake when he said he was not there when Mr. Louima
was tortured. But Mr. Levitt said that while that was ethically
questionable, it did not rise to the level of a crime.Mr. Levitt argued
that when Officer Rosario finally told the authorities he had seen Mr.
Louima in Officer Bruder's custody, he was truthfully reporting what he
remembered. Officer Rosario was "guilt-ridden" at having misled the
authorities, Mr. Levitt said, and is now on trial simply because his
version of the truth does not jibe with the government's.