NYC Police Torture Case Continues
May. 19, 1999
NEW YORK (AP) _ One witness was a desk sergeant, the other a teen-age prisoner.
One said he noticed nothing unusual while supervising from his perch at a Brooklyn police station. The other described disturbing sights and sounds observed from a holding pen around a corner, about 60 feet away.
``I heard banging against a wall and I heard somebody screaming,'' said the teen, Connelle Lugg.
Lugg and the sergeant, Jeffrey Fallon, testified Tuesday at the high-profile brutality trial of five police officers, providing starkly contrasting snapshots of the pre-dawn scene at the station on Aug. 9, 1997.
Prosecutors say on that morning Officer Justin Volpe _ mistakenly thinking Abner Louima had earlier punched him in a melee outside a nightclub _ rammed a stick into Louima's rectum and mouth while Officer Charles Schwarz held him on the floor of a police station bathroom.
The case involving the black Haitian immigrant stunned the city and has raised tensions between minorities and the police department.
Volpe, Schwarz and two other officers, Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese, are also charged with violating Louima's civil rights by beating him in a patrol car en route to the station. A fifth defendant is charged with covering up the incident.
Lugg, then 16, arrested on unrelated weapon and menacing charges, testified that he was in a cell adjacent to the stationhouse bathroom when he spotted a police officer leading a handcuffed Louima down a hallway; he said Louima's pants were down around his knees.
After he heard the screams through the wall, Lugg said, an officer he identified as Volpe threw Louima onto his knees in the same cell. He said Louima smelled bad, was moaning and complained that he needed to go to the hospital.
When Louima asked for help, Volpe told him to shut up, Lugg said. Other officers eventually summoned an ambulance.
Fallon on Tuesday described being seated behind the station's elevated front desk when a handcuffed Louima was brought before him to be searched and processed on a charge of assaulting a officer.
The sergeant testified there was no indication of any problem at all until two days later, when internal affairs investigators visited.
Fallon later was suspended for failing to safeguard a prisoner. The department charges, which could cost him his job, are pending.