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Settlement Near in NYPD Torture Case

Law enforcement: Deal with the city and police union would pay Abner Louima $9 million for a brutal attack in a Brooklyn stationhouse.

July 12, 2001|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — In the biggest settlement of a single police brutality claim in New York history, the city and the police union have tentatively agreed to pay $9 million to Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant tortured in a stationhouse bathroom with a broken broomstick, Associated Press has learned.

Legal sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said the deal would be about $9 million, paid jointly by the city and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn.

But lawyers for both sides said later in the day that talks to finalize the settlement had bogged down.

"No settlement," said Louima attorney Barry Scheck after meeting Wednesday with U.S. Magistrate Cheryl Pollak in Brooklyn. "We are gagged. We'll be back tomorrow."

Thomas Puccio, a lawyer for the union, also said: "There's no settlement--that's all I can tell you."

A settlement would close a notorious case that touched off protests accusing police of singling out minorities for abuse and that strained relations between blacks and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Louima was arrested in a brawl outside a Brooklyn nightclub in 1997. He was handcuffed and taken to the 70th Precinct stationhouse.

Officer Justin Volpe--mistakenly believing Louima had punched him--sought revenge by sodomizing Louima with a broken broomstick.

Volpe pleaded guilty to federal charges and is serving 30 years. A jury found another officer, Charles Schwarz, guilty of pinning Louima down during the assault; four other officers were convicted of lying about what happened.

Charges against Louima were later dropped.

Louima sued for $155 million three years ago, claiming officers conspired to create a "blue wall of silence and lies to obstruct justice." The civil rights suit accused police and union officials of condoning an "environment in which the most violent police officers believed they would be insulated" from prosecution.

An earlier settlement was abandoned in March. Under that deal, Louima would have received $9 million from the city and the PBA but would have dropped his demand for reforms in the way the Police Department deals with officers accused of abuse.

Giuliani has called the New York Police Department "the most restrained large-city police department in the country."

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