April 4, 2002
By JOHN MARZULLI
Daily News Staff Writer
s his lawyers slammed federal prosecutors for "a vindictive prosecution," Charles Schwarz pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges that he lied about his role in the torture of Abner Louima.
"It is a warning ... that anyone who takes the witness stand and says that Chuck Schwarz is innocent will be indicted for perjury," said the former cop's lawyer, Ron Fischetti, accusing federal prosecutors of trying to intimidate witnesses.
Federal prosecutors have charged Schwarz with lying at his trial in 2000 when he denied escorting Louima to the bathroom in the 70th Precinct stationhouse and being there when Louima was sodomized with a wooden stick by another cop, Justin Volpe.
Schwarz was hit with the perjury charges less than a month after a federal appeals court reversed his conviction for allegedly violating Louima's civil rights and obstructing a grand jury investigation.
The appeals court also threw out the obstruction convictions of two other former cops, Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder. Prosecutors have not announced whether they will file new charges against them.
Schwarz, who served 33 months in prison before the convictions were overturned, appeared rested and relaxed during his arraignment before Federal Judge Reena Raggi. He is free on $1 million bail.
Outside the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, Schwarz ignored a pair of demonstrators yelling at him from behind police barricades and predicted he would be vindicated. "I was not in that bathroom. I've been saying that since the beginning," he said. "And nothing the government says is going to change that fact."
Fischetti said the indictment sends a chilling message to witnesses he intends to call at the trial, including Volpe, who is serving 30 years for the attack, Wiese and Bruder.
Volpe's lawyer, Marvyn Kornberg, said his client will not be scared off from testifying at Schwarz's trial. "Justin Volpe is not afraid to tell the truth if subpoenaed by anybody," Kornberg said. Volpe has said that Wiese, not Schwarz, was in the bathroom when he attacked Louima.
Meanwhile, Acting Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad filed a motion yesterday asking Raggi to consolidate the civil rights and perjury indictments against Schwarz into a single trial.
Schwarz's lawyers prefer separate trials. Raggi is expected to rule on the issue next week.