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#4403: Cop Gets 15 Years in Torture Case (fwd)
Tuesday June 27 12:13 PM ET Cop Gets 15 Years in Torture Case
By TOM HAYS, Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - A former patrolman was sentenced Tuesday to more than
15 years in prison for holding down Haitian immigrant Abner Louima as he
was tortured in a police station bathroom.The sentencing came after
former officer Charles Schwarz delivered a vitriolic speech declaring
his innocence. U.S. District Court Judge Eugene Nickerson sentenced
Schwarz to 15 years and 8 months, about half of the 30-year term given
fellow officer Justin Volpe, who pleaded guilty to carrying out the
attack on Louima. He also ordered Schwarz to pay Louima $277,495 in
restitution. Schwarz, 34, was convicted last year of violating Louima's
civil rights by holding him down while Volpe viciously sodomized the
skinny, handcuffed victim with a broken broomstick in August 1997.
``But for Volpe's extraordinary brutality, it is unlikely Schwarz would
now face a sentence for a sexual assault carried out with such force,''
Nickerson said. At a second trial in March, a jury found Schwarz and
two other ex-officers, Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese, guilty of
federal obstruction of justice charges - a cover-up prosecutors said
reflected a ``blue wall of silence'' code observed by some officers.
Bruder and Wiese received sentences of five years Tuesday. The sentence
given Schwarz on Tuesday covers both of his convictions. Volpe - who is
serving 30 years on his guilty plea - admitted wanting to punish
Louima because he mistakenly thought the victim had punched him as
police broke up a brawl outside a Brooklyn nightclub. But he claimed
Schwarz was not the officer with him in the bathroom. Schwarz, speaking
just before his sentencing, accused prosecutors of presenting
``twisted and distorted truth'' at his trial. Prosecutors ``silenced
witnesses just as effectively as any organized crime family,'' he said.
The attack by white officers on a black prisoner touched off protests
alleging widespread police abuse of minorities. It triggered an ongoing
Justice Department inquiry into whether the New York Police Department
fosters brutality through lax discipline of wayward officers. Louima,
who suffered severe internal injuries, has sued the city, the police
officers union and several individual officers for $155 million. No
trial date for the civil case has been set.
Since the beginning, Schwarz has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
At the second trial, the former Marine took the stand to tell jurors he
was searching a patrol car for contraband at the time of the attack.
Volpe testified that Wiese, not Schwarz, was in the bathroom with him.
But taking the stand at both trials, Louima insisted the second
assailant - who put a foot in his mouth when he started to scream - was
the same officer who drove him to the stationhouse. Records show the
driver was Schwarz. Two officers testified that they spotted Schwarz
leading Louima - pants around his ankles - toward the bathroom only
moments before he was attacked. Prosecutors presented phone records they
said showed Schwarz, Wiese and Bruder conspired to concoct a story
afterward. Another former officer, Francisco Rosario, was convicted last
week of lying to investigators. He and his partner, Rolando Aleman, who
pleaded guilty, are awaiting sentencing.