Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsTrials

THE NATION

Divided Jurors Convict Officer of Perjury in Louima Torture Case Retrial

Courts: But they deadlock over the more serious charges against Charles Schwarz. He could get five years.

July 17, 2002|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — A sometimes contentious and divided jury convicted former police officer Charles Schwarz of perjury Tuesday but failed to reach agreement on whether he helped torture Abner Louima in the bathroom of a Brooklyn police station in 1997.

The jurors found that Schwarz lied when he denied leading Louima, a Haitian immigrant, from the front desk of the police precinct toward the bathroom.

But it was deadlocked on more serious charges that Schwarz conspired to violate Louima's civil rights and gave false statements about actually being in the bathroom where Louima was sodomized with a broken broomstick.

The viciousness of the assault on Aug. 9, 1997, shocked the city, sparked demonstrations and caused serious concern about the adequacy of supervision in the New York Police Department.

U.S. District Judge Reena Raggi accepted the partial verdict on the sixth day of deliberations and set sentencing for Sept. 20. Schwarz, 36, could receive a maximum of five years in prison for his perjury conviction.

The jury told Raggi of its verdict in a note, which she showed to prosecution and defense lawyers.

The judge then asked the jurors to continue deliberating, but they indicated to do so would be fruitless, and Raggi declared a mistrial on the deadlocked charges.

Tensions in the jury room surfaced when a juror sent Raggi a note last week charging that some members of the panel were biased because of their previous knowledge of the widely publicized case.

Acting U.S. Atty. Alan Vinegrad said the government was prepared to retry Schwarz on the remaining charges.

''I was not in that bathroom,'' Schwarz said outside federal court in Brooklyn after the jury's verdict. ''The truth has always been on my side.''

Louima appeared as a prosecution witness and said that police officer Justin Volpe, who pleaded guilty in May 1999 to attacking Louima with the broomstick, warned him in the bathroom that ''he was going to do something to me, and if I make any noise, he'll kill me.''

Volpe is serving a 30-year prison sentence.

Louima never identified Schwarz by name as the second officer who held him down in the bathroom of the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn, telling the jury it was the driver who transported him to the station house.

Both the prosecution and the defense agreed that Schwarz drove the police car. But defense attorney Ronald Fischetti stressed that Schwarz never participated in the bathroom attack.

Prosecutors argued that Schwarz had a motive to hold Louima down in the bathroom: He believed the Haitian immigrant had punched him during a melee outside a Brooklyn nightclub.

Two police officers testified for the prosecution. Mark Schofield and Eric Turetzky said they witnessed Schwarz take Louima away from the front desk of the station house. Turetzky said he saw Schwarz escorting Louima toward the bathroom.

Volpe, testifying for the defense, said the second officer in the bathroom with him was Thomas Wiese. In February, a federal appeals court ordered a new trial for Schwarz, who was convicted in 1998 on civil rights charges. He was serving a 15-year prison sentence.

In their decision, the judges said the first trial was tainted by news reports and that Schwarz's lawyer did not defend him adequately.

The attack on Louima was so brutal that the former security guard spent two months in hospitals. He later sued New York City and received an $8.7-million settlement.

Schwarz did not testify during the trial. His lawyers contended he remained at the police station's front desk, where he completed Louima's arrest forms, and then went into the street, where he searched the patrol car that transported Louima to the precinct.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|