September 9, 1997 in Nation/World

Cops Plead Innocent To Bias Charge

Associated Press
 

Two police officers accused of sexually brutalizing a Haitian suspect with a wooden stick pleaded innocent Monday to a new charge of bias based on “race, color, religion or national origin.”

The new charge of aggravated harassment was contained in a superseding state indictment against Officers Justin Volpe, 25, and Charles Schwarz, 31. It also included earlier charges that Volpe and Schwarz had sodomized Abner Louima with a wooden object.

The papers repeat previous allegations that Volpe and Schwarz were joined by Officers Thomas Bruder, 31, and Thomas Wiese, 33, in punching, kicking and beating the victim with a radio.

All four men appeared briefly in court Monday morning. They all also had pleaded innocent to the earlier charges and been released on bail.

Louima was allegedly attacked on Aug. 9 in the bathroom of the 70th Precinct stationhouse after he was arrested outside a Brooklyn nightclub on a disorderly conduct charge. Louima told authorities he believed the stick used in the attack was the handle of a toilet plunger. He remains hospitalized with bowel injuries.

Authorities say the attack on Louima was racially motivated, and he has filed a $55 million lawsuit against the city, which his attorneys say they will amend to seek $465 million.

The indictment accuses Volpe and Schwarz of first-degree aggravated sexual abuse and first-degree assault for allegedly sodomizing Louima with a foreign object. All four men are charged with second- and third-degree assault, criminal possession of a weapon - namely the radio - and three counts of aggravated harassment, which is the bias charge.

Volpe’s lawyer, Marvyn Kornberg, wondered aloud in court whether the proceeding was a matter of “spinning our wheels,” speculating that federal authorities would soon take over the case.

On Sunday, Police Commissioner Howard Safir said the officers would not “be returned to duty in any capacity - modified or not,” unless they are cleared of all charges.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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