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Jury Deadlocked on Two Counts in US Police Brutality Case - 2002-07-17


A mistrial has been declared on two counts in the retrial of a former police officer accused of assisting in one of the most notorious police brutality cases in recent New York history. But the jury did convict the former police officer of perjury.

The jury deliberations lasted six days, nearly as long as the trial itself.

But in the end, the 12-panel jury, which had repeatedly asked to re-read testimony and for clarification of legal terms, failed to reach a decision on two counts in the retrial of former police officer Charles Schwarz.

A judge accepted that the jury was deadlocked.

Schwarz has twice been found guilty on charges of violating the civil rights of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in a police station bathroom in 1997. The convictions were overturned earlier this year after an appeals court found that Schwarz was inadequately represented by his lawyer and that the jury was tainted.

Schwarz was accused of restraining Mr. Louima while another officer, Justin Volpe, sodomized him with a broomstick. Midway through the first trial, Volpe admitted guilt and is serving a 30-year prison sentence. Schwarz was sentenced to 15 years in jail.

While the jury in the latest case was unable to decide if Schwarz had assisted in the brutal assault and violated Mr. Louima's civil rights, it did convict the former police officer on one count of perjury. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Mr. Schwarz said the failure to convict proves that he was not in the bathroom during the assault of Mr. Louima.

"The truth is the truth," he said. "The truth is one thing that was always on my side. I was never in that bathroom and that is one thing that will never change."

Volpe, brought from prison to testify, also says another police officer was involved, not Mr. Schwarz.

Mr. Louima, who now lives in Florida, returned to New York to testify for the prosecution. He says he was held down by the driver of the police car that brought him to the station house. Records show Schwarz was the driver. But Mr. Louima has never been able to identify him.

A spokesman for Mr. Louima indicated he is waiting for a retrial on the civil rights charges. "We are very disappointed," he said. "However, the fact is that he was convicted. He did not walk away completely free as has happened so often in the past. So he is a criminal."

The prosecution says it is prepared to retry Schwarz on the remaining charges. Schwarz, who faces five years in prison for perjury, has already served nearly three years for the earlier convictions.

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