Second Officer Guilty in Louima Case
NEW YORK, NY – In an ambiguous end to a trial that aroused national outrage over police brutality, a jury yesterday convicted one police officer of helping to attack and sodomize Haitian immigrant Abner Louima but cleared three others in the case, USA Today reported.
According to the paper, jurors ruled that Officer Charles Schwarz held down Abner Louima in the filthy bathroom of a precinct house in Brooklyn two years ago while Officer Justin Volpe tortured him with a broken broomstick.
But the jury acquitted Schwarz and the three other officers of charges that they beat Louima inside a police car before the bathroom attack.
The prosecutor promised to press outstanding obstruction charges against two of the police officers who were cleared, while Louima, 32, told the paper, “I am disappointed the verdict was not everything I wanted it to be, [but] I am confident?that complete justice will be done. I hope what comes out of my case is change.”
The verdict by the federal court jury of eight whites, three Hispanics and one black came two weeks after Volpe, who wielded the stick, pleaded guilty (link to previous newswire here).
USA Today writes that Schwarz sat impassively as the verdict was read but later glared at prosecutors. Members of his family sobbed. Like Volpe, Schwarz could be sentenced to life in prison.
However, Volpe’s plea and yesterday’s verdict do not end the Louima case. The defendants who have been suspended still face Police Department disciplinary charges; Louima has filed a multi-million-dollar civil suit; and Schwarz and two of the acquitted officers face charges of obstruction of justice that were severed from the trial.
Even before Louima’s call for change, the New York Civil Liberties Union implemented a campaign to stop what Executive Director Norman Siegel calls the “endemic problem of police brutality.”
The objective of the three-year campaign, initiated in January 1999, is to educate New Yorkers about the problem of police misconduct and provide specific recommendations that would establish a system of accountability for the actions of individual members and leadership of the NYPD. To read more about the campaign, link to /news/1999/n011099a.html.
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.
The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.