Officer Admits To Torture

A New York City police officer Tuesday admitted sodomizing a suspect with a wooden stick in a vicious assault that spattered a precinct bathroom in blood and created a national outpouring against police brutality.

Justin Volpe, 27, the ringleader in the attack on Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges. He faces up to life in prison without parole.

Volpe was fired from the New York City police force within hours of admitting his guilt in one of the most vicious cases of police brutality ever, reports CBS News Correspondent Jacqueline Adams.

With chilling calm, he told a packed federal courtroom Tuesday, "I sodomized Abner Louima by placing a stick in his rectum. I then threatened to kill him if he told anyone."

"You wanted to intimidate, did you not?" U.S. District Court Judge Eugene Nickerson asked.

"Yes," the officer replied.

When Volpe actually entered the plea, he was wiping sweat from his brow with his bare hand and appeared agitated.

The jury was out of the courtroom when Volpe entered his plea. Earlier, the officer and his attorney, Marvyn Kornberg entered the Brooklyn courthouse without saying a word to reporters.

The plea was not part of a bargain with the prosecution and there was no indication that he would be testifying against the remaining defendants.

Supporters of the Haitian immigrant felt vindicated.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said, "We all owe Abner a lot of gratitude. Because of him, you got to see justice come our way."

Volpe admitted he was mad after someone pushed him to the ground during a melee outside a Brooklyn nightclub two years ago. Mistakenly, he went after Louima, and in a bathroom of his Brooklyn precinct house, humiliated the handcuffed prisoner.

Volpe said he was sorry for hurting his own family, but had no words of apology for his victim.

Kornberg, said, "When you plead guilty, I think that's a sufficient apology. The man's facing life in prison."

This case has drawn national attention in part because of the brutality of the crime, but also because Volpe's police brethren chose to testify against him, breaking the famed blue wall of silence.

During the three-week trial, one officer said Volpe had borrowed black leather gloves and returned them, after the attack, covered with blood. A sergeant testified Volpe had shown him the stick, and bragged "I took a man down tonight."

New York's combative mayor chose to see all this as a positive. Mayor Rudolph Guiliani said, "It destroys the myth of the blue wall of silence, doesn't it? The fact is that police officers came forward, police officers testified."

But critics fear much of the wall remains intact, since Volpe refused to describe the actions of the four other officers also on trial for the attack.

Officer Charles Schwarz is accused of holding down Louima in the station house bathroom assault. Schwarz and OfficerThomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder also are charged with beating Louima; Sgt. Michael Bellomo is charged with covering up the incident.

Sharpton said, "He still could not bring himself to implicating the other police. How can you plead guilty to conspiracy and not name the co-conspirators? There is no conspiracy of one person."

That one person left his home Tuesday morning for the last time. He is now beginning what could be a lifetime behind bars.