April 3, 2002
Former police officer Charles Schwarz pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday to two counts of perjury in connection with the 1997 police torture of Abner Louima.
Schwarz was indicted on the new charges last week, following a federal appeals court decision to throw out his original conviction in the notorious police brutality case. He is now charged with lying twice under oath during an earlier trial on obstruction of justice charges in February 2000.
Prosecutors say Schwarz lied when he said he did not escort Louima to the bathroom of Brooklyn's 70th Precinct in August 1997, and also when he said he was not present when Louima was beaten and sodomized with a broken broomstick by another officer.
Schwarz, who still faces a retrial on the original civil rights charges, asserted his innocence and said there is no possibility he would agree to any plea bargains with prosecutors, even though there has been talk of a deal in which he would plead guilty to the perjury charges and get credit for time served.
I was not in that bathroom, Schwarz told reporters outside the courtroom, as a handful of protestors shouted at him. Ive been saying that since the beginning, and nothing the government says or does is going to change that fact. Myself, my wife, my family, my attorneys, we plan on seeing this through, and I plan on being vindicated.
Fischetti said Schwartz wont agree to a plea bargain.
There are no pleas, Fischetti said Wednesday. Chuck has told me he'd rather go back to prison and serve the rest of his sentence than admit to something he never did.
Schwarz was convicted in the first trial in 1999 of holding down Louima while he was assaulted by then-officer Justin Volpe, who plead guilty to the attack and is serving 30 years in prison. However, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered overturned the verdict, ruling that his lawyer, who also represented the police union, had a conflict of interest and that the jury was exposed to prejudicial information by learning of Volpes secret plea.
Schwarz, who had served three years of a 15-year sentence, was released from prison last month, and the judge on Wednesday set the same terms for bail on the perjury charges. Schwarz is not allowed to leave the five boroughs, though he did win an exception for this Friday to attend a party with his family in Putnam County.
At hearing on Friday of next week, the judge will rule on prosecutors request to combine the perjury case and civil rights violation retrial into a single proceeding.
Schwarz had also been convicted in a separate trial in 2000, along with fellow officers Thomas Weise and Thomas Bruder, of obstruction of justice in the case, but those three convictions were also overturned in Februarys appeal decision.
No new charges have yet been filed against either of the other two ex-officers. Bruders is said to have rejected a plea deal that would give him no prison time if he admits to lying to federal agent. Bruder's attorney told NY1 that his client has never pleaded guilty in the case and would not plead guilty now.
Louima, who moved to Florida after settling a lawsuit against the city for $8.75 million, is set to testify in the new trial. In the first trial, he said that he was held face-down down by a second officer during the attack, but he could not positively identify who it was.
Mr. Louima is prepared to testify with regard to one trial or two trials, said his attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, who attended Wednesdays arraignment.
Schwarzs lawyer in the first trial argued that Volpe acted alone. In the new trial, Volpe, who did not testify in the first trial, is expected to tell the court that Weise, not Schwarz, was in the bathroom with him.
Meanwhile, another former police officer involved in the case has been granted a second hearing. Francisco Rosario was sentenced to three years of probation after admitting he and another officer concocted a story to avoid becoming embroiled in the high-profile case.
Rosario says he was double-crossed by prosecutors, whom he said promised him immunity in exchange for his testimony. He admitted that he misled investigators and was later indicted in the case.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a new hearing.