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Cop’s Case Undermined Again

May 21, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ In another apparent blow to the defense of a Brooklyn policeman accused of torturing a prisoner, a former prosecutor testified that the officer claimed he _ not the prisoner _ was a victim.

Sheila Leary O’Rourke told a jury Thursday that while she was processing the arrest of Abner Louima, Officer Justin Volpe told her that Louima had cursed at police before attacking two uniformed officers.

``He said Mr. Louima hit him in the head,″ O’Rourke, now in private practice, said Thursday at the federal brutality trial of five officers. Volpe, she added, also claimed Louima punched another officer, Charles Schwarz, during a melee outside a Brooklyn nightclub on Aug. 9, 1997.

Volpe, 27, is accused of ramming a stick into Louima’s rectum and mouth in a fit of rage inside a police station bathroom. Prosecutors say Volpe falsely alleged Louima, 32, had punched him.

O’Rouke, who was to resume testifying next week, was part of a parade of witnesses who have given damaging accounts of Volpe’s activities the morning of the alleged bathroom assault. Volpe’s attorney, Marvyn Kornberg, chose not to cross-examine any prosecution witness Thursday.

``There’s been a change in strategy,″ Kornberg told reporters outside court. ``You’ll see why when we finish the case.″

So far, four 70th Precinct patrolmen have testified seeing Volpe wielding a stick in the station.

The latest, Officer Michael Schoer, said Thursday he first thought the feces were from the puppy Volpe kept around the station. Instead, Volpe told him it was human excrement, Schoer said.

Volpe, Schwarz and two other officers are charged with violating Louima’s civil rights by beating him en route to their station. Schwarz also is accused of holding down Louima in the bathroom attack.

A fifth defendant is charged with covering up the incident, which left Louima hospitalized with severe internal injuries.

In other testimony Thursday, an emergency room nurse said that Louima, his face caked with blood and body shaking, told her details of the alleged brutality before he had surgery to repair a tear in the tissue separating the bladder and rectum. He also denied he had fought with police, said the nurse, Sonia Miller.

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