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US

Louima jury to resume deliberations Monday

louima graphic


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CNN's Gary Tuchman describes the case against the police officers
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Race relations

Police brutality

Jurors request testimony review

June 4, 1999
Web posted at: 2:29 p.m. EDT (1829 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Jurors deliberating the case of four New York City police officers implicated in the beating and sexual torture of a Haitian immigrant have been dimissed until Monday after their first day of deliberations.

When the jury returned from lunch Friday, jury members sent a note to the judge asking for read-backs of key portions of witness testimony.

The jury wanted to review the testimony of the victim, Abner Louima, detailing his account of what happened after he was brought into the Brooklyn precinct in August 1997.

The jury also asked for read-backs from testimony of three police officers who were at the precinct. One of the officers, Eric Turetsky, testified that Louima was immediately escorted to the back of the precinct. Another officer, William Hargrove, contradicted that, saying that Louima first stopped at the front desk.

Jurors began deliberating Friday morning.

Attorneys for both sides finished closing arguments on Thursday in the federal case, which has strained relations between minorities and police and sparked demonstrations against brutality.

"Don't let these defendants push us back to the day when police officers could beat people with impunity, and arrest people for no reason and lie about it to cover it up," prosecutor Loretta Lynch told jurors.

Stephen Worth, an attorney representing one of the police officers, told the court that "they have tried to make this case into a culture of police brutality, but it never was."

"It is the case of one sick individual, Justin Volpe," he said, a reference to the officer who pleaded guilty last week to torturing Louima in a precinct bathroom.

Volpe confessed he attacked Louima because he thought -- mistakenly -- that Louima had punched him in a fight outside a nightclub. Volpe admitted in court that he sodomized Louima with a stick and "threatened to kill him if he told anyone."

Three officers -- Charles Schwarz, 33; Thomas Bruder, 33; and Thomas Wiese, 35 -- are charged with violating Louima's civil rights by beating him in a police squad car in August 1997.

Schwarz, who is represented by Worth, also faces the more serious charge that he held Louima down while Volpe sodomized him.

Volpe had said another officer he didn't identify was in the bathroom; Schwarz said he wasn't there.

Sgt. Michael Bellomo: Machiavelli or fall guy?

The officers' supervisor, Sgt. Michael Bellomo, 37, is charged with covering up the attack in the squad car and lying to federal investigators.

Bellomo
Bellomo says the charges are baseless  

Throughout closing arguments, defense attorneys repeatedly referred to the fact that Louima has never positively identified Schwarz, Bruder or Wiese in the assault.

They also alleged that Louima and his family lied about the patrol car assault to bolster his report of the bathroom attack and his subsequent $155 million lawsuit against the city.

Bellomo was charged "because the prosecution needed a boss in this case," his attorney, John Patton, told the court.

"There is a claim that Michael Bellomo is the Machiavelli of all Machiavellians," Patton said. "That is not the case, this is a trumped up investigation."

After he left the court, Bellomo told reporters that "they wanted a supervisor, and it was between me and Sgt. Fallon. I guess I lost."

Schwarz faces a possible a life sentence if the jury finds he participated in the sexual assault on Louima. The other three defendants face possible sentences of five to 10 years.

Correspondent Gary Tuchman contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Defense wraps up closing arguments in Louima case
June 3, 1999
Prosecution concludes arguments in Louima case
June 2, 1999
Mistrial denied in police brutality trial
May 27, 1999
Civil rights panel probes NYC police
May 26, 1999
Policeman in torture case changes plea to guilty
May 25, 1999
Justice Department to tackle police brutality charges
March 26, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Official New York City Web site
  • Office of the Mayor of New York City
  • New York City Police Department
The Police Complaint Center
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
National Urban League
New York Civil Liberties Union
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