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Ex-Brooklyn Officer Gets 5 Years in Louima Torture

Courts: In a plea deal, Charles Schwarz received the maximum for lying about his role in the bathroom assault more than five years ago.

September 22, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — A former police officer was sentenced to five years in prison Saturday in a last-minute deal that avoided a fourth trial on charges he lied about the torture of a Haitian immigrant in a precinct bathroom.

U.S. District Judge Reena Raggi sentenced Charles Schwarz to five years in prison--the maximum penalty for perjury. In exchange, prosecutors dropped outstanding civil rights charges and a second perjury count.

At sentencing, Raggi scolded Schwarz for lying about "a senseless and brutal attack."

"No free society can tolerate such conduct from a police officer," she said.

Schwarz, who is to surrender Dec. 4, said nothing in response. Outside court, he told reporters: "I want to thank my supporters and my attorneys." He declined to answer questions.

Schwarz, 36, was scheduled to stand trial for a fourth time beginning Monday for his part in the attack on Abner Louima inside the bathroom of a Brooklyn police precinct. The deal came the day attorneys met to seat a jury, and more than five years after Louima was assaulted.

"I'm glad it's finally over," Louima told reporters outside court. "Now I can move on with my life ... now it's time to start the healing process."

Prosecutors had alleged that Schwarz held Louima down while fellow police Officer Justin Volpe sodomized the man with a broken broomstick; Louima was hospitalized for two months with severe internal injuries.

Schwarz denied ever being inside the bathroom at the 70th Precinct. Volpe pleaded guilty and is serving a 30-year sentence.

Schwarz's lead attorney, Ronald Fischetti, noted that the agreement contained no admission of wrongdoing beyond the perjury.

Under the terms, Schwarz could earn a 13-month reduction in his sentence if he, his wife and his attorneys comply with an agreement not to comment on the case until Schwarz leaves prison, his attorneys said. Along with credit for good time, Schwarz's attorneys estimated that he could serve fewer than three years.

The attack by the white officers prompted citywide protests. The city and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Assn. agreed to pay Louima an $8.75-million settlement in his civil suit last year, the most ever paid to a New York City police brutality victim.

In the first two trials, Schwarz was convicted of violating Louima's rights and of conspiring to cover up the crime. The convictions were overturned by a federal appeals court that ordered the third trial.

In July, Schwarz was convicted of perjury for claiming on the witness stand that he was not the second officer in the bathroom, although the jury deadlocked on the more serious charge that he violated Louima's civil rights.

Schwarz, who has already spent nearly three years in prison, was released on $1-million bail in March after a federal appeals court overturned his conviction of violating Louima's civil rights.

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