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Breaking News

Jury Finds 3 Officers Guilty of Conspiring to Obstruct Justice in Abner Louima Case

Aired March 6, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Just moments ago, we learned that there has been a verdict handed down in the obstruction of justice trial for three New York City police officers in relation to the Abner Louima case, Abner Louima the Haitian immigrant who was beaten a couple of years ago.

Let's go to Deborah Feyerick who's outside the courthouse in Brooklyn. She has the verdict in this latest trial -- Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, a very emotional scene inside the courthouse as family members breaking down as the verdict was pronounced: guilty. All three officers guilty of conspiring to obstruct justice. The families are in a state of disbelief.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): It's been called the worst act of police brutality in New York City history: the station house torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. He was sodomized with a broomstick by this man, ex-cop Justin Volpe, who is now serving 30 years for the crime.

But did Volpe act alone as he has testified, or was this ex- officer, Charles Schwarz, holding Louima down. Prosecutors say yes. And, in June, a jury agreed, finding Schwarz guilty of taking part in the assault.

STEVE WORTH, SCHWARZ'S ATTORNEY: The two police officers primarily responsible for the sodomy of Abner Louima in the 70th Precinct bathroom on August 9, 1997 have been convicted.

FEYERICK: but Schwarz's lawyer says prosecutors got the wrong guy. Now Schwarz and these two officers, Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder, are on trial for conspiracy, accused by prosecutors of lying to cover up Schwarz's role. The key evidence, prosecutors say, nearly 60 phone calls made between the three officers right after the assault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their lives are crumbling before their very eyes in the media. They should be calling one another.

FEYERICK: Defense attorneys say it's a case of mistaken identity and timing. Abner Louima maintains there was a second officer in the bathroom that night, but defense attorneys say it was Schwarz's partner, Thomas Wiese.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's an innocent New York City police officer in prison and he should be released.

FEYERICK: The station house torture of Abner Louima rocked New York City. Thousands of demonstrators marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in protest. The same charges were made after the police killing of Amadou Diallo, but the two incidents are different. In the Diallo case, the acquitted officers testified the shooting was an accident. The assault of Abner Louima was essentially premeditated, revenge by disgraced cop Justin Volpe who testified he wanted to teach Louima a lesson for punching him in the head. Charles Schwarz is now in prison awaiting sentencing. He plans to appeal the earlier verdict.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Charles Schwarz was led out of the courtroom and he was yelling. It was very clear to all of those who remained behind. He made some disparaging remarks about the prosecutors, calling them liars.

Now, as for Thomas Wiese, as he walked out of the courtroom, either his mother or some family relative collapsed on the floor and he rushed over to help her. As for officer Thomas Bruder, he said, quote, "nobody's going to break me."

All of the families plan to fight this. And, of course, Charles Schwarz awaiting sentencing. This was a critical verdict for him because had he been found -- had it been found that he was not in the bathroom at that time, that would have strongly helped his appeal of the first verdict.

Reporting live, Deborah Feyerick.

Back to you, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Deborah. Thank you for that news.

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