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Justin A. Volpe et al. Trials: 1999 & 2000

Cops Reassigned, Suspended, Arrested

Within a week, the 70th Precinct's commanding and executive officers were reassigned. Fourteen cops were transferred, put on desk duty, suspended, or arrested. Of the 14, Justin A. Volpe, 25, and Charles Schwarz, 31, were arrested and indicted under New York State law, charged with aggravated sexual abuse and first-degree sexual assault. Thomas Bruder, 31, and Thomas Wiese, 33, were charged with beating the victim.

Volpe was the son of a former New York police detective and had won decorations for his police work. He had also been accused once before of using excessive force while on duty, but the accusation had never been proven. Volpe maintained his innocence regarding the assault on Abner Louima. Schwarz was accused of holding down the victim while Volpe raped him with the stick.

New York police officers' trials revealed crack in the "blue wall of silence." (AP/Wide World Photos) New York police officers' trials revealed crack in the "blue wall of silence." (AP/Wide World Photos)

During the 1990s, Mayor Giuliani had often heralded the rebirth of his city, citing its renewed vibrancy and civility. One reason for that improvement had been a drop in crime following the mayor's "get-tough" attitude with lawbreakers. But not all New Yorkers welcomed the new visibility and authority given to the city's police force. Some African Americans and other minority groups believed they were often unfairly targeted for police harassment and brutality. After the Louima case hit the media, anger over the perceived mistreatment of black New Yorkers erupted in full force. African-American leaders, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, attacked the NYPD for racism, and organized protest marches. At one point, thousands marched to the 70th Precinct carrying toilet plungers—the alleged weapon Volpe used during the assault.

On August 18, 1997, the U.S. Justice Department began a civil investigation of the NYPD, and in February 1998 federal prosecutors took over. (The original state charges filed against Volpe and the others were subsequently dropped.) They produced a grand jury indictment of all four officers on charges of violation of civil rights in assaulting Louima in the patrol car as they took him to headquarters. Volpe and Schwarz were also accused of kicking Louima and shoving a stick into his rectum and mouth while his hands were cuffed behind his back, with Schwarz specifically accused of holding Louima down in the bathroom while Volpe used the stick. Bruder and Wiese were also charged with criminal possession of a weapon—a portable radio with which they were alleged to have beaten Louima so severely that the patrol car's backseat became stained with blood. Sergeant Michael Bellomo, 37, was indicted on a charge of attempting to cover up the incident.

By November 1998, a new federal indictment had charged Bruder, Schwarz, and Wiese with conspiring to obstruct justice by lying to investigators from the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau and the Brooklyn D.A.'s office in a plot to cover up the incident. A court document quoted Bruder and Wiese as singling out Volpe as the instigator.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentJustin A. Volpe et al. Trials: 1999 2000 - "… On Tomorrow's Front Page.…", Cops Reassigned, Suspended, Arrested, A Breach In The "blue Wall"