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Guilty Verdict In Louima Case

Former New York City policeman Charles Schwarz and two other ex-cops have been found guilty of conspiracy. They were convicted for their role in the beating and sodomizing of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima at a Brooklyn stationhouse.

A Brooklyn federal court jury reached a verdict on the fourth day of deliberations in the second trial stemming from the Aug. 9, 1997, incident that horrified an already race-conscious city.

Schwarz, 34, and officers Thomas Wiese, 37, and Thomas Bruder, 34, were found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice because they had claimed that Schwarz was not present during the brutal attack. The penalty is up to five years in prison.

Schwarz already faces a possible life sentence for his 1999 conviction on violating Louima's civil rights by holding him down as fellow Officer Justin Volpe sodomized him with a broken-off broom handle.

Louima suffered severe internal injuries, including a ruptured bladder and colon, and spent two months in the hospital.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad accused the three defendants of telling "lie after lie" to save Schwarz. He offered phone records as evidence that the cops, who rarely spoke prior to the incident, had scores of conversations in the weeks afterward.

While Vinegrad said the timing and pattern of the calls proved a conspiracy, defense lawyers argued they were meaningless without knowledge of their contents.

Schwarz testified that the phone calls were consultations with police union delegates and other cops. But he insisted that he barely knew Volpe and never spoke with his fellow officer.

Volpe provided the trial's dramatic highlights, as the first defense witness, and Schwarz as the last. Both contended that Schwarz was never in the 70th Precinct lavatory during the assault.

A Brooklyn federal court jury reached a verdict on the fourth day of deliberations. The jury found there was a cover-up after the August 9th, 1997 beating of Louima in a police precinct.

Schwarz and officers Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder were found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice because they had claimed that Schwarz was not present during the brutal attack. The penalty is up to five years in prison.

Volpe, who is serving 30 years after pleading guilty to attacking Louima, was subpoenaed from prison to tell his story under oath for the first time. He testified that Wiese was present, but made no move to join the assault or try to stop it.

"I never saw Schwarz in the bathroom at any time," Volpe told the jury, adding that he could not serve his time "with a clear conscience...knowing that another man is paying for the crime that I committed."

That differed sharply from Wiese's own version, given to detectives shortly after the incident. Wiese said he entered the bathroom to find Volpe standing over Louima, stick in hand, and then dragged the victim to safety by his feet.

Wiese's attorney, Joseph Tacopina, did not cross-examine Vlpe, saying Schwarz's role was the only question at issue, and Volpe had answered it.

Volpe denied his testimony was intended as revenge against Wiese for first going to the authorities, or to save a friend. He said he knew Schwarz only slightly, by his last name not as "Chuck."

Recounting the attack, Volpe said he mistakenly thought Louima had punched him during a disturbance outside a Haitian nightclub, and became "frustrated and angry" when the arrested suspect cursed him repeatedly.

"But I'm not blaming Mr. Louima or trying to say it's his fault. I was the one who assaulted him," Volpe said.

Schwarz, who testified for the first time last week about that infamous August night, repeated his assertion that he was never in the bathroom, and said he would not expect other cops to lie to protect him, particularly Wiese, his patrol partner.

"I would never do something like that to ask a man with two children to put himself in harm's way for me," Schwarz replied to a question from his lawyer, Ronald Fischetti.

Schwarz said he had only accompanied Louima from the patrol car to the front desk of the precinct. At the time the assault, he claimed to be outside conducting a routine search of the car for possible contraband.

Asked who had escorted Louima from the desk to the bathroom, Schwarz said, "I think it was Tommy Wiese. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think it was him."

Louima testified that he could identify his second assailant only as "the driver" who helped arrest him and transported him to the station. Officials say Schwarz drove the patrol car.

Louima also testified for the first time that he heard the bathroom door open and close during the incident, suggesting someone entered or left.

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