Eds.: COMBINES urgent series; CORRECTS spelling of officers' name to Schwarz and Bruder.
Aug. 18, 1997
NEW YORK (AP) _ Two more police officers were arrested today bringing to four the number taken into custody in a widening scandal over the alleged torture of a Haitian immigrant in a police station bathroom.
Also today, an attorney for the man allegedly sodomized with a plunger said his client would sue the city and its police department for $55 million, and the Justice Department announced it was launching a federal civil rights investigation.
``Among the most disturbing aspects of this case,'' U.S. Attorney Zachary W. Carter said, is that ``one or more police officers are alleged to have committed an act of almost incomprehensible depravity within a police precinct and with the apparent expectation that they would get away with it.''
Arrested today were officers Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder, Police Commissioner Howard Safir said at an afternoon news conference. Both were charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon _ a police radio they allegedly used to beat Abner Louima with while he was in their patrol car.
Wiese had previously been named in published reports as one of two officers who came forward with information about what he saw during the Aug. 9 attack.
Wiese's partner, Charles Schwarz, had already been charged in the attack, as had a fourth officer, Justin Volpe.
Louima, 30, said police beat him and shoved the wooden handle of a toilet plunger into his rectum while shouting racial slurs after arresting him on a disorderly conduct charge. He remains hospitalized with a torn colon and other injuries.
Police Commissioner Howard Safir, who is threatening to fire anyone who withholds information, said Sunday that he put all 700 members of his department's Internal Affairs Bureau to work investigating the charges.
Indictments were unsealed today accusing Schwarz, 31, and Volpe, 25, of assault and sexual abuse. If convicted, they could be sentenced to as much as life in prison
The indictments say Volpe and Schwarz attacked Louima with their fists, then attacked him with ``forcible compulsion with a wooden stick,'' District Attorney Charles Hynes said today.
The prosecutor also said Volpe ``was seen wearing gloves,'' which were recovered and are being tested for DNA.
Schwarz's attorney, Stephen Worth, said this morning his client was ``falsely accused.''
``This case is in disarray at this time. Do not be swept up in the same hysteria that the DA's office is,'' Worth added.
At Schwarz's arraignment, Justice Rose McBrien denied Worth's attempt to have the charges dismissed. Worth told McBrien he has ``circumstantial evidence'' to clear Schwarz, but added he wouldn't divulge that today. Schwarz was freed on $100,000 bail.
Volpe was to be arraigned later in the day.
Worried that the facts of the case would be hidden behind a ``blue wall of silence,'' police officials shook up Brooklyn's 70th Precinct, where the attack allegedly occurred, transferring the commander and pulling 16 officers off active duty.
Safir has said as many as five officers might eventually face charges, either for the abuse or for not reporting it.
He also said he was willing to look again at a 1996 Amnesty International report alleging a pattern of brutality among New York police, especially against minorities, from 1987 to 1994. Safir, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and others dismissed the report at the time as outdated, inaccurate and biased.
Thousands of demonstrators marched against police brutality on Saturday.
Volpe's 26-year-old girlfriend, who is black, denied he could have been involved in a racially motivated assault.
``Justin a racist? Impossible,'' she was quoted in today's Daily News. She said she and Volpe had lived together for the past two years and were planning to marry and have children. ``I know he is not an evil person. His life with me would have to be a lie.''