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Court Repeals 3 Convictions in NY Police Brutality Case - 2002-03-01

A federal appeals court has overturned the convictions of three New York City police officers in a police brutality case that galvanized the city.

The three officers were found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice in the torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in a police station bathroom in 1997. But the Appeals Court has reversed the convictions on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Mr. Louima was arrested during a late night brawl and brought to the station where a fourth officer, Justin Volpe, sodomized him with a stick, causing internal injuries. Midway through Volpe's trial, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30-years in prison.

Volpe is not effected by the Appeals Court's reversal.

The court has also ordered a new trial for one of the officers, Charles Schwarz, saying the jury was improperly exposed to prejudicial information. The Appeals Court also ruled that Schwarz did not have adequate legal representation because his lawyer was representing one of the other defendants.

Schwarz is serving a 15-year sentence. The two other men have been free on bail pending appeal of the five-year jail sentences they each received.

Mr. Louima's lawyer, Sanford Bernstein, said his client will testify at the new trial. "With regard to the retrial of Office Schwarz, Abner Louima will cooperate with federal authorities," he added. And we look to the federal authorities to vigorously prosecute once again, as they had in the initial case, the indictment."

Mr. Louima won a record settlement from the city and police union, more than $8 million, and now lives in Florida.