- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2000

They are called "the Louima cops." Named for Abner Louima, the Haitian immigrant who was barbarically assaulted by former New York City policeman Justin Volpe, three ex-policemen were sentenced to prison terms this week by federal Judge Eugene Nickerson after a jury convicted them of participating in Volpe's brutal attack Charles Schwarz for silencing and restraining Mr. Louima while Volpe rammed a stick into his rectum, and Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder for lying to hide Schwarz's role in the sensational 1997 incident, which has brought shame and notoriety to the NYPD.

The Louima cops have also been called "the Brooklyn Three." Dedicated supporters, from Schwarz's wife, Andra, to New York GOP political fixture Guy Molinari, believe these three to be innocent of the crimes for which they have been sentenced. Wiese and Bruder were both given the maximum sentence of five years apiece. Schwarz, facing life in prison, received 15 years, a sentence that would be considered lenient for a guilty man. But could, as his supporters maintain, Charles Schwarz be innocent?

The Abner Louima story is by now a complex saga, layered and fragmented by a parade of lawyers, two trials (more to come), conflicting testimonies and stunning recantations about an incident of unmitigated horror. In last year's mid-trial shocker, Volpe, now known by his tabloid handle as "Torture Cop," withdrew his plea of innocence to plead guilty. He is serving a 30-year sentence. Mr. Louima's own version of events has by now shifted five times as he has claimed, variously, that one, two and even three policemen were party to his attack. More famously, he recanted the particularly colorful charge that a cop, mid-assault, had sung out, "This is Giuliani time." The court calls these assorted tales "amended testimonies" a way, perhaps, to avoid perjury charges against a man who has suffered enough. Still, "amended testimonies" demand an extra measure of scrutiny and concern. Worth noting is an element of the story that has never been amended: Mr. Louima has never been able to identify Schwarz as the second officer on the scene of his torture.

That could be because, as Thomas Wiese told investigators days after the attack, it was Wiese, not Schwarz, who appeared briefly at the door of the bathroom-turned-torture chamber, where Wiese maintains he saw nothing untoward. Volpe confirmed Wiese's story in testimony this year, asserting that he acted alone. Weirdly enough, prosecutors dismiss Wiese's potentially self-incriminating story as a lie concocted only to save Schwarz, who has claimed all along to have been outside the building at the time.

Who placed Charles Schwarz at the scene of the crime? Consider the testimony of one witness, whose work was crucial to Schwarz's conviction last year. (This year's trial heard only the obstruction of justice case against the three ex-policemen.) Lt. Renaldo Daniels was one of the first police investigators to interview Mr. Louima. He was also the author of a report that, in the words of the New York Post, "served as a road map for the FBI-NYPD investigation." In this report, Lt. Renaldo wrote that a second policeman with a description similar to Schwarz's had been involved in the attack. But under cross-examination this year, Lt. Renaldo admitted he had "mistakenly" invented the information about the second officer, even making up the man's description. He also admitted that he had never shown Wiese's photo to Mr. Louima, even after Wiese had come forward and admitted to seeing Volpe alone with Mr. Louima in the bathroom. Why? Because, as the newspaper put it, "Volpe had been arrested. And so had Charles Schwarz."

Was the government so eager to have its man that it didn't care all that much who he was? That is the conclusion Charles Schwarz has come to after padding a 9-by-6-foot cell for 13-months in solitary isolation. In a stinging, 7-page condemnation of the government's case that Schwarz read in court this week, the 34-year-old Desert Storm veteran declared himself the victim of a "witch hunt" in which prosecutors acted in accord with the wishes of "professional agitators and race-baiters" to punish as many policemen as possible for the attack.

Speaking of agitators and race-baiters, Al Sharpton was on hand for the sentencing, having accompanied Mr. Louima to court along with Mr. Louima's legal counsel, among whom number "Dream Team" lawyers Johnnie Cochran and Peter Neufeld. Turns out the end of this trial is not the end of the case. Next up is Mr. Louima's $155 million dollar civil case against the city, the NYPD, the police union, and dozens of police officer who were in the 70th Precinct when Justin Volpe tortured Mr. Louima. For the record, Mr. Sharpton called Schwarz's "a show of atrocious arrogance." That doesn't mean Schwarz isn't right.

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