The defense is expected to rest its case today in the re-trial of Charles Schwarz, the white police officer charged with complicity in the torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. But Schwarz may not take the witness stand, though anything could happen
The former cop was the last witness at his trial in 2000 before a jury convicted him of obstructing a grand jury investigation into the attack. A federal appeals court reversed that verdict in February.
Schwarz is facing two civil rights charges for assisting officer Justin Volpe in assaulting Louima in a stationhouse bathroom. He also faces two perjury charges in connection with his testimony in his 2000 trial.
Meanwhile, another key witness failed to appear on the witness stand yesterday. Schwarz’s partner, Thomas Wiese, apparently changed his mind about testifying, informing defense lawyers at the last minute that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Wiese had been expected to vindicate Schwarz by testifying that he himself, and not Schwarz, was in the stationhouse bathroom when Justin Volpe assaulted Louima.
That left only Volpe vindicating Schwarz, claiming he was not the second cop in the bathroom during the attack. But Volpe’s credibility was shattered on Monday when Brooklyn prosecutor Alan Vinegrad produced a stunning tape of Volpe lashing out at Schwarz, ranting he wanted his 30-year sentence reduced in exchange for testifying. The tape was recorded during a phone conversation between Volpe and his father. Both knew the conversation was being recorded.
Here’s what Volpe said:
"That other —-—- guy is going home and I’m going to be rotting in —-—- prison … They better get ready to do some strategizing and get me some reduction . . . I’m in a —-—- empty room while that —-—- is at home . . . I gotta talk to my —-—- lawyers . . . I want to talk to them alone if you read between the lines, I want to talk to them alone . . . I committed suicide . . . If they think I’m falling on my sword again for nothing they’re out of their —-—- minds."
Well, we are going to turn now to excerpts of another eye-opening recording. It is part of an exclusive interview Democracy Now! conducted several months ago with a juror in the original Abner Louima conspiracy case. It is the only time a juror has been interviewed on the record since a federal appeals court overturned the convictions of three of the four white officers charged in the case. The officers–Charles Schwarz, Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder–had all been found guilty of conspiring to cover up the violent assault on Louima. Schwarz had also been convicted in an earlier ruling of participating in that assault. This too was overturned in the February ruling.
The juror described the overturning of the obstruction of justice charge as "totally absurd" and maintained the three police officers were guilty of a carefully plotted cover-up. He also argued that Schwarz was guilty of holding Louima down in the precinct bathroom while Volpe assaulted him with a broken broomstick.
In the interview, the juror says he originally believed Schwarz was innocent of the conspiracy to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation. But, as the jury deliberated, he ultimately became convinced of Schwarz’s guilt.
The juror refused to be identified, for fear of reprisal from supporters of Charles Schwarz. He said: "There’s been a mini-movement built around 'free Schwarz.' I’ve looked at their website and I know about some of the people involved. Some of them are well-meaning, law-abiding people who were just fooled. And others are unsavory characters and I don’t want to deal with them."
We turn now to the beginning of the interview, where the juror lays out the charges in the Abner Louima conspiracy trial.
- Anonymous juror in the Louima conspiracy case. The interview was recorded in early March, just after a federal appeals court overturned the convictions of three officers charged with conspiring to cover-up the infamous assault on Abner Louima.