Watch CBSN Live

Ex-NYC Cop Gets 30 Years

A white former patrolman was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for an assault on a black immigrant that prosecutors called one of the worst acts of police brutality in city history.

Justin Volpe, 27, who pleaded guilty during his trial, could have faced life without possibility of parole.

"I hurt many people. I was and still am ashamed ... I am extremely sorry," Volpe said in a statement to U.S. District Judge Eugene Nickerson.

The victim, Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, was sodomized with a broken broomstick in a police station bathroom and hospitalized for 2 1/2 months.

However, while addressing the court before the sentencing, Louima declined to ask the judge for any specific punishment. "I'm sure the court will make a wise and fair decision," he said.

Prosecutor Alan Vinegard asked Nickerson to impose the maximum, saying Volpe had engaged in a pattern of self-serving lies to cover up the attack, including contending that Louima's injuries were caused by gay sex.

Vinegard called Volpe's initial assertions of innocence a "cowardly, shameful and humiliating fraud he tried to perpetrate on the court, fellow officers of the city police department and the city of New York."

Vinegard said that although Volpe now claims he was ashamed, at the time of the assault the officer bragged to other officers about "how he broke a man down."

"He actually went and retrieved the stick with Mr. Louima's feces still on it and walked around the precinct, brandishing this feces-filled stick in front of his fellow police officers," Vinegard said.

He said these were not the actions of a contrite man but rather showed Volpe's "twisted sense of pride ... about his animalistic brutalization of another human being."

The defense had countered that Volpe deserved leniency because the assault was out of character for him and because he accepted blame.

The 1997 attack on the black Haitian immigrant by white officers strained relations between police and minorities, who said it reflected widespread abuse. A multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed on Louima's behalf also alleged that rogue cops were shielded by a "blue wall of silence" -- a code among officers to never turn one another in.

The son of a retired detective, Volpe was working in Brooklyn's 70th Precinct at 4 a.m. Aug. 9, 1997, when officers were sent to disband a rowdy crowd outside a nightclub. During a skirmish, Volpe was sucker-punched in the head.

Prosecutors say Louima's cousin struck Volpe. But in the confusion, an enraged Volpe thought his assailant was Louima, a 30-year-old security guard who had cursed at the officers, authorities said.

Once arrested, Louima said, Volpe, Charles Schwarz and two other patrolmen took turns beating him in a cruiser. Prosecutors failed to prove those charges at a trial earlier this year.

Louima said Schwarz held him down while Vope rammed the stick up his rectum, causing severe internal injuries.

After other police officers testified against him, Volpe interrupted the trial to plead guilty to violating Louima's civil rights by sexually assaulting him.

The jury convicted Schwarz of violating Louima's civil rights; he remains in custody awaiting a possible life sentence. Attorneys for Schwarz and Volpe have since said another officer -- not Schwarz -- was in the bathroom during the attack.

Prosecutors insist they accused the right men.