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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 17:21 GMT
Convictions against NY police reversed
The officers who have now had their convictions thrown out
The Louima case attracted much publicity
Three New York police officers have had their convictions overturned in connection with the notorious assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

A federal appeals court threw out the convictions of former officers Charles Schwarz, Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder.

Prosecutors at the original trial said officers had pinned Mr Louima down in a police station bathroom and forced a broken broom handle into his rectum.

Abner Louima seen at the 1999 trail of the police officers, with Reverend Al Sharpton beside him
Louima got $9m in damages for his suffering
The Louima case in 1997 provoked widespread protests in New York with demonstrators accusing the police force of targeting ethnic minorities for abuse.

In their ruling on Thursday, the appeal court judges said Mr Schwarz's conviction for civil rights violations must be thrown out and a new trial held.

They ruled that he had been denied proper assistance by his lawyer and the jury had been influenced by prejudicial information.

Conspiracy

Mr Schwarz was convicted of holding Mr Louima down while the attack took place and was sentenced to 15 years.


We look to the federal government to retry the case

Sanford Rubenstein
Louima's lawyer

He was also found guilty along with Mr Bruder and Mr Wiese of conspiring to obstruct justice by claiming that he was not present during the attack.

But the appeals court said their convictions must be thrown out because of insufficient evidence.

Prosecutors alleged that the officers who arrested Mr Louima after an incident outside a nightclub beat him up inside a Brooklyn police station and sodomized him with a broken broom handle.

Another officer, Justin Volpe, was given a 30-year jail sentence after admitting responsibility for the assault.

The ruling does not affect his conviction.

At the trial, Mr Louima himself was only able to identify Mr Schwarz as the driver of the car used by the arresting officers.

Police brutality

Mr Louima, who suffered serious internal injuries, was awarded some $9m in damages by the city government and police union - the biggest ever settlement in a police brutality case in New York.

His lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, said: "We look to the federal government to retry the case and we will be supportive of their efforts as we have in the past."

Joseph Tacopina, lawyer for Mr Wiese, told the Associated Press that "justice has been served."

"Hopefully now Thomas Wiese, Thomas Bruder and Charles Schwarz can resume their normal lives with this and even possibly return to the force," he said.

See also:

13 Jul 01 | Americas
New York pays for police brutality
27 Jun 00 | Americas
NYPD officer jailed for brutality
08 Aug 00 | Americas
New York police chief quits
28 Apr 01 | Americas
Diallo officers escape punishment
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