Mar 4, 2002
On February 28, a federal appeals court in New York City threw out the conviction of Charles Schwarz, a former NYC cop, on charges he assisted in the 1997 station house torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. It also overturned verdicts that Schwarz and two other cops conspired to cover up Schwarz’s role to a federal grand jury. All of these convictions were overturned on technicalities, with the court admitting that there was abundant evidence against the three.
This was the famous case which showed just how brutal and sadistic are New York City cops – and how much their behavior was condoned by city authorities. Falsely arrested, Louima was beaten up twice on the way to a Brooklyn police precinct house. At the station, he was taken into a bathroom by two cops, one of whom held him down while the other rammed a broom stick up his anus and then into his mouth, knocking out several teeth. He was thrown into a cell where he would have died from rectal bleeding and a punctured bladder except that other inmates in the jail kept screaming that he needed to be cared for. He was finally taken to a hospital in critical condition.
The next day the cops at the station denied any knowledge of what had happened. The police Internal Affairs unit then refused to answer any questions about what had happened.
The incident couldn’t be buried because witnesses came forward – including EMS ambulance drivers and hospital workers.
Still the cops involved weren’t charged until thousands of people demonstrated in the streets demanding justice for Louima. One cop was convicted of brutalizing Louima after he confessed to the crime and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Schwarz was convicted of assisting him and sentenced to 16 years. Schwarz and two other cops were convicted of trying to cover up Schwarz’s role in the attack.
But that was four years ago. Now the heat is off and the court system has returned to its normal mode of operation.
The court says there was abundant evidence of the cops’ wrong-doing – but it couldn’t be used. It’s also abundantly clear that the courts will only grant a smidgen of justice to an ordinary person against the police when the threat of popular revolt hangs over them.