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Federal Appeals Court Has Overturned Convictions of Three Police Officers in Abner Louima Case

Aired February 28, 2002 - 11:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news from New York City, and a federal appeals court has overturned the convictions of three police officers the in Abner Louima case. Juries convicted the man for sodomizing the Haitian immigrant with a broomstick at a police station back in 1997. Louima was handcuffed at the time. A fourth officer, Justin Volpe, pleaded guilty. His conviction apparently is not effected by today's ruling. The court today ordered new trials for former officers Charles Schwarz, Thomas Wiese, and Thomas Bruder.

The judges rules that Schwarz was denied effective counsel, and his jury was exposed to prejudicial information. The court found insufficient evidence to convict the other two defendants.

Our Deborah Feyerick joins us from New York with the latest developments in the case.

Deborah, hello.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Daryn, and you may remember the police house torture of Abner Louima rocked New York City. It led to a major shake-up of the police department. It was also one of the first cases that spread this whole racial profiling issue on the table.

Now, what we know right now is that -- first of all, let me just backtrack a bit. At the time, one officer, as you mentioned, Justin Volpe, pleaded guilty. Another officer was charged with holding Abner Louima down in the bathroom. That was Charles Schwarz. He has always maintained his innocence. He said that he was nowhere near the bathroom at the time that this attack happened.

Well, an appeals court today found that Schwarz was denied effective counsel, assistance of counsel, I should say. They also found that at one point, the jury may have been exposed to prejudicial information, and that effected their ruling at the time.

This was a very heated trial. And everybody is sort of coming down on these four police officers. Now Schwarz, again, has said that he was always innocent. His wife has really been on a crusade to clear her husband's name.

We did reach Charles Schwarz sister just a short while ago. This is what she told CNN. She said, "I am numb. I am shocked. Justice has finally prevailed, and we want those responsible, people held responsible, who framed the my brother." They have felt very strongly about this case from the outstart.

Now the appeals court also ruled in a second trial. That was the trial of not only Charles Schwarz, but of Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder. They had all been charged basically with conspiring to come up with this story in which they said, well, I wasn't near the bathroom. So it couldn't have been us. Well, the appeals court, in that decision, said basically that there was not enough evidence for these police to have been found guilty. Remember, at the time, this assault on this Haitian immigrant was explosive throughout the city, and there were a lot of sort of cries back and forth between who was being fair and who wasn't being fair. Was it a black and white issue? A lot of things going on. So these, overturns of these convictions, the new trials that have been ordered, that is a very big deal here in New York City.

Hope I made it clear -- Daryn.

KAGAN: You did. We got a lot of questions all morning long. We will have more in just a bit. But, Deborah, we are going to let you no for right now.

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