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World Today

New York Jury Convicts Three Officers on Charges Related to Torture of Abner Louima

Aired March 6, 2000 - 8:19 p.m. ET

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

JIM MORET, CNN ANCHOR: A New York City jury today convicted three police officers on charges related to the 1997 police station torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since the torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, prosecutors have said there was a conspiracy to obstruct justice. A racially mixed jury agreed, finding three officers guilty of trying to cover up the role of one of the officers, Charles Schwarz, now off the force.

LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY: The verdicts today should send the message that within the police department there is no greater betrayal of the badge and of the brotherhood than to ensnare a fellow officer in a web of lies and deceit.

FEYERICK: For Schwarz, it's his second conviction. He was found guilty in June of taking part in the bathroom assault: holding Louima down as Justin Volpe sodomized him with a broomstick. Volpe is serving 30 years for the crime. But Scwharz's attorney says prosecutors got the wrong guy.

RONALD FISCHETTI, ATTORNEY FOR CHARLES SCHWARZ: Chuck and his family are devastated. I am firmly convinced that he never was in that bathroom, and I think any fair-minded person knows that.

FEYERICK (on camera): After the verdict was read and as the courtroom was being cleared, chaos erupted. Charles Schwarz, already in custody, was led out visibly agitated. He could be heard shouting behind a closed door.

Thomas Wiese's mother collapsed in the hallway outside the courtroom, and Thomas Bruder threw what appeared to be a cell phone against the wall, saying in his words, "They can't break me."

(voice-over): Among the evidence presented by the prosecution: 60 phone calls between the three officers in the days right after the 1997 assault.

ALAN VINEGRAD, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: I think there was overwhelming evidence that these defendants engaged in a conspiracy with which they were charged and which they now stand convicted of.

FEYERICK: The verdict comes on the heels of the acquittal of four officers in the death of Amadou Diallo, and tensions in New York City have been running high.

ANDRA SCHWARZ, WIFE OF CONVICTED OFFICER: I mean, this is the worst possible time for police officers, I think, to get a fair trial.

FEYERICK: Charles Schwarz is now on suicide watch. The lawyers for all three officers plan to appeal the verdict.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORET: Officer Schwarz faces anywhere from 25 years to life in prison. The others, a maximum of five years. And the officers, the city, and the police still face a civil lawsuit related to this case.

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