A former police officer convicted of perjury in the 1997 assault on Abner Louima, a case that scarred both the city’s race relations and its police force for years, has been released from prison to a halfway house in upstate New York, his lawyer said yesterday.
The officer, Charles Schwarz, 41, was released from a minimum-security facility on a former Air Force base in Duluth, Minn., more than two months ago, said the lawyer, Ronald Fischetti. Mr. Schwarz is expected to complete the remainder of his five-year sentence in May.
“I talked to him five minutes ago,” Mr. Fischetti said in a telephone interview yesterday. “His frame of mind is excellent because he knows he only has a few more months, and he can take his wife and child and move and put this episode behind him completely.”
Mr. Fischetti would not disclose the location of the halfway house but said Mr. Schwarz’s wife, Andra, and 2-year-old son, William, lived nearby.
Mr. Schwarz “plans to relocate in a different area and doesn’t plan to come back to the city,” Mr. Fischetti said, because of unwanted press attention.
“He’s looking for opportunities in the northern area of the country” outside law enforcement, Mr. Fischetti said. “Something outdoors, maybe carpentry.”
Mr. Schwarz’s release was first reported yesterday in The Daily News.
In August 1997, Mr. Louima, a Haitian immigrant arrested after a nightclub disturbance, was beaten in a police station’s bathroom by an officer who then sodomized him with a broomstick. The officer, Justin A. Volpe, later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Mr. Louima has contended that there was a second officer in the bathroom, Mr. Schwarz. Mr. Schwarz has denied the allegation, and Mr. Volpe also said Mr. Schwarz was not there.
After a tangled path through the courts a conviction was reversed and two juries were hung Mr. Schwarz agreed not to appeal a perjury conviction and was sentenced to the federal prison camp.
“The worst that Chuck did is that he saw Mr. Volpe walking Mr. Louima toward the bathroom, and when he was asked about that, a cop being a cop, he said he didn’t remember it,” Mr. Fischetti said.
Mr. Louima, who now lives in South Florida, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He sued the city and accepted an $8.75 million settlement in 2001.
At a March 2006 hearing on Mr. Schwarz’s sentence, Judge Reena Raggi said that he had failed to accept responsibility for lying to protect other officers, including Mr. Volpe. She told Mr. Schwarz she was convinced that there had been another officer in the bathroom, and that “it was either you, which I think is highly probable in fact, I think it’s more than highly probable or it was someone else.”