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

"… On Tomorrow's Front Page.…", Cops Reassigned, Suspended, Arrested, A Breach In The "blue Wall"

Defendants: Michael Bellomo, Thomas Bruder, Charles Schwarz, Justin A. Volpe, and Thomas Wiese
Crimes Charged: First trial: Bellomo: False statements; Bruder, Schwarz, Volpe, and Wiese: Violation of civil rights (i.e., aggravated harassment based on race, color, religion or national origin); second trial: Bruder, Schwarz, and Wiese: Conspiracy to obstruct justice
Chief Defense Lawyers: Bellomo: John Patten; Bruder: Stuart London; Schwarz: Stephen C. Worth and Ronald P. Fischetti; Volpe: Marvyn M. Kornberg; Wiese: Joseph Tacopina
Chief Prosecutors: Alan Vinegard, Lauren Resnick, and Kenneth P. Thompson
Judge: Eugene H. Nickerson
Place: Brooklyn, New York
Dates of Trials: First trial: May 6-June 9, 1999; second trial: February 7-March 6, 2000
Verdicts: First trial: Bellomo: Not guilty of cover-up; Bruder and Wiese: Not guilty of assault; Schwarz: Guilty; Volpe: Pleaded guilty during trial; second trial: Bruder, Schwarz, and Wiese: Guilty
Sentences: First trial: Volpe: 30 years imprisonment, $277,495 restitution; Schwarz: 15 years, 8 months imprisonment; Bruder and Wiese: 5 years imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: In these trials, four New York City police officers testified against a fellow officer, revealing a rare crack in the supposed "blue wall of silence" among law enforcement officials. Some legal experts still believe most policemen and women are reluctant to turn against fellow officers accused of brutality or corruption. This case gained national and international prominence, drawing attention to a problem that many consider commonplace in America: police violence against minority citizens.

On Tuesday morning, August 12, 1997, a voice on the answering machine of New York Daily News reporter Mike McAlary said,

You don't know me, but I am calling because in the Seven-O Precinct in Brooklyn, on August the ninth at 0400 hours, they, the cops there, sodomized a prisoner. They took a nightstick and shoved it up his behind and into his bladder. The patient is at Coney Island Hospital. His last name is L-O-U-I-M-A. Now they are trying to cover this up, because it was two white officers. And they did this to a black guy who they locked up for disorderly conduct. And now they are charging him with assault in the second. All this information can be verified if you call Coney Island Hospital or the Seven-O Precinct. I will not call you again.

Like any veteran police reporter, McAlary knew enough to take an anonymous call with a huge grain of salt, but a quick check of addresses confirmed the identity of the Louimas, a family of Haitian immigrants. A call to the hospital revealed that a prisoner-patient named Abner Louima was in critical but stable condition.

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