NYPD Officer Pleads Guilty in Torture Case

May 26, 1999 12:00 am

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NEW YORK, NY — In the one of the nation’s most shocking cases of police brutality, Police Officer Justin Volpe yesterday admitted to sodomizing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in a Brooklyn station house bathroom.

Volpe had maintained his innocence until fellow police officers broke the “blue wall of silence” and testified against him. Volpe admitted ramming the stick up Louima’s rectum in anger because he thought his prisoner had punched him in a melee outside a nightclub, USA Today reported. Volpe also said another unidentified cop was present during the attack.

In a full transcript of the hearing printed in the Daily News, Volpe, 27, told Brooklyn Federal Judge Eugene Nickerson, “I was mad at the time. I told [Louima], if you tell anyone about this, I’ll find you and kill you.”

Before a gallery that included his father, a retired police detective, U.S. Attorney Zachary Carter, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, Volpe read from a prepared statement and admitted striking Louima while he was handcuffed in a patrol car, and then sodomizing him at the station.

According to the Daily News, Volpe’s voice wavered and his body shook as he described the attack. Federal prosecutor Alan Vinegrad asked Volpe if any other cops took part in either attack on Louima.

“Your Honor, what I testify here today is the truth what I did,” Volpe told the judge. “I did not see anyone hit Mr. Louima.”

“That’s not the question,” Judge Nickerson told Volpe. “The question is did someone help you?”

After huddled sidebar meetings involving lawyers and the judge in efforts to iron out the language that would fulfill the legal requirements to a plea of conspiracy, Volpe replied, said the Daily News.

“While I was in the bathroom, there was another police officer in the bathroom with me,” he said. “That police officer saw what was going on and did nothing to stop me or report it to anyone.”

Volpe did not cite any other cops by name in his plea, nor was he required to do so, reported the Daily News.

According to the paper, Officer Charles Schwarz is accused of holding Louima down during the bathroom attack. Court records show that another officer, Thomas Weise, walked in on the attack.

Volpe faces a maximum of life without parole.

“The cost to a democratic and free society is too high for wayward cops to go undetected and unpunished,” said Norman Siegel, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“It is a cost borne by the honest and hardworking members of the NYPD, whose morale and effectiveness are diminished every time there is no accountability or punishment of those officers who disgrace their badges and dishonor their oath of office.”

Siegel also disputed the mayor’s assertion that Volpe’s guilty plea had “cracked the blue wall of silence,” noting that it took nearly two years for the officers to come forward. He also noted that until Volpe’s plea, his lawyer had claimed that Louima’s internal ruptures were the result of “consensual gay sex.”

For more information on police abuse, link to the ACLU’s Police Practices issue page at /issues/policepractices/hmpolice.html. And read the NYCLU report, “Dissenting Report of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s Task Force on Police/Community Relations,” online at http://www.nyclu.org/blame1.html.

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