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$8.75 million settlement over police brutality


NEW YORK -- A Haitian immigrant tortured in a New York police station bathroom said Thursday he hopes his $8.75 million settlement sends a message.

"I hope that in the future that it puts police brutality to rest and there will be no more victims," said Abner Louima. The agreement was the largest police brutality settlement in New York City history.

The agreement comes after almost two years of negotiations and almost four years after the August 9, 1997, attack.

Louima attorney Johnnie Cochran said his client's lawsuit was not about money.

"It was about trying to bring about some change. It was about the future. It was about a society in which Abner Louima feels his children will be safe, safer then he was." Cochran said. "I hope that will be the legacy."

Cochran said that the issue of money was settled more than six months ago.

The City of New York will pay $7.125 million of the settlement cost and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) will pay $1.625 million of the cost.

Louima was arrested in a brawl outside a Brooklyn nightclub in 1997. He was handcuffed and taken to the station house of Brooklyn's 70th Precinct.

Officer Justin Volpe -- mistakenly believing Louima had punched him -- sought revenge by sodomizing Louima with a broken broomstick. He pleaded guilty and is serving 30 years.

A jury found another officer, Charles Schwarz, guilty of pinning Louima down during the assault; four other officers were convicted of lying to authorities about what happened.

Louima sued for $155 million in 1998, claiming officers conspired to create a "blue wall of silence and lies to obstruct justice."

An earlier settlement agreement was abandoned in March. Under that deal, Louima would have received $9 million from the city and the union but would have dropped his demand for reforms in the way the Police Department deals with officers accused of abuse.

At a Thursday news conference after the settlement, Louima said he was thankful to be alive and to now be able to go forward with his life. He said he planned to use some of the settlement to start an organization to help other victims of police brutality.

It was not immediately clear how the new settlement would address issues involving department operations.

Attorneys for the city and the PBA both said the new settlement deal did not impose any reforms on the Police Department. City lawyer Lawrence Kahn said those changes were already in place before the agreement with Louima.

"We've enhanced training and monitoring to ensure something like this will never happen again," Kahn said in a report by The Associated Press. "There is no link between the lawsuit and the changes."

The 40,000-officer department still faces a separate civil rights investigation by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan into allegations of racial profiling. That probe followed the 1999 slaying of an unarmed West African immigrant, Amadou Diallo, in a hail of 41 bullets fired by four white officers.


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