Mistrial denied in police brutality trial
May 26, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A mistrial request was denied Wednesday for New York City police officers accused in the case of an immigrant tortured in the bathroom of a Brooklyn station house.
U.S. District Judge Eugene Nickerson brushed aside a mistrial motion on behalf of two of the four remaining defendants in the case. A fifth officer, John Volpe, pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating the civil rights of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
As the trial resumed Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn, the judge informed the 12 jurors and six alternates of Volpe's mid-trial change of plea.
The jury was not present Tuesday when Volpe admitted in court that he "sodomized Abner Louima" with a stick and "threatened to kill him if he told anyone."
Nickerson told jurors Wednesday that Volpe "is not here because he has pleaded guilty to various counts of the indictment."
The judge did not detail Volpe's plea. But he cautioned the jury that his absence "can't be used as evidence in determining whether any of the other defendants are guilty."
The jurors, who are not sequestered, had no visible reaction.
In their losing argument for a mistrial, attorneys for Officer Thomas Wiese and Sgt. Michael Bellomo said the jury had been tainted by Volpe's action, which could land him in prison for decades.
"As much as jurors might say they didn't read or see anything," said Bellomo's attorney John Patten, "I cannot see how it would not make its way to them. It's permeated the whole New York area. It has prejudiced my client's ability to get a fair trial."
Bellomo is charged with trying to cover up the incident.
Volpe was the central figure in a case that has shocked the city and sparked demonstrations against police brutality. The 27-year-old officer admitted ramming a stick into the handcuffed victim's rectum, pulling it out and putting it up to his face.
Correspondent Gary Tuchman contributed to this report.
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Official New York City Web site
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