30-year sentence for N.Y. policeman in torture of black man
December 13, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Justin Volpe, the New York City police officer who admitted sodomizing a prisoner with a broken broomstick, was sentenced Monday to 30 years in prison. Volpe, 27, also was ordered to pay a $525 fine and $277,495 in restitution to Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
Before U.S. District Court Judge Eugene Nickerson passed sentence:
Vinegard said that, although Volpe now claims he was ashamed, at the time of the assault the officer bragged to other officers about "how he broke a man down."
"He actually went and retrieved the stick with Mr. Louima's feces still on it and walked around the precinct, brandishing this feces-filled stick in front of his fellow police officers," Vinegard said.
He said these were not the actions of a contrite man but rather showed Volpe's "twisted sense of pride ... about his animalistic brutalization of another human being."
The 1997 attack on the black Haitian immigrant by white police officers strained relations between police and minorities, who said it reflected widespread abuse.
A multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed on Louima's behalf also alleged that rogue cops were shielded by a "blue wall of silence" -- a code among officers to never turn one another in.
The son of a retired detective, Volpe was working in Brooklyn's 70th Precinct at 4 a.m. August 9, 1997, when officers were sent to disband a rowdy crowd outside a nightclub. During a skirmish, Volpe was sucker-punched in the head.
Prosecutors say Louima's cousin struck Volpe. But in the confusion, an enraged Volpe thought his assailant was Louima, a 30-year-old security guard who had cursed at the officers, authorities said.
Once Louima was arrested, Volpe and three other officers -- Charles Schwarz, Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder -- took turns beating him in a police car, prosecutors said, while a fifth officer, Sgt. Michael Bellomo, tried to cover up the incident.
Wiese, Bruder and Bellomo were acquitted at trial earlier this year.
At issue in Volpe's sentencing was what happened after the police car arrived at the 70th Precinct station house. Louima said the driver -- identified in records as Schwarz -- dragged him by the handcuffs into the precinct bathroom, followed by Volpe.
Louima said Schwarz held him down while Volpe rammed the stick up his rectum, causing severe internal injuries.
Early in the trial, Volpe's attorney implied Louima's injuries were caused by gay sex, but Volpe later reversed himself and pleaded guilty after other police officers gave damaging testimony against him.
They described how Volpe later waved the stick around and boasted how he had "broke a man down."
Overwhelmed, Volpe interrupted the trial to plead guilty to violating Louima's civil rights by sexually assaulting him. "In the presence of another officer, I sodomized Abner Louima with a stick," Volpe told the judge. "I threatened to kill him if he told anybody."
The jury convicted Schwarz of violating Louima's civil rights; he remains in custody awaiting a possible life sentence.
Attorneys for Schwarz and Volpe have since said Wiese, not Schwarz, was in the bathroom during the attack.
Wiese's attorney strongly denied the allegation and prosecutors insist they accused the right men.
Cop found guilty in Haitian attack says wrong man convicted as his accomplice
Official New York City Web site
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.