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Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 04:13 GMT 05:13 UK


World: Americas

Haitian confronts alleged tormentors

"It was him" - Abner Louima accuses Officer Volpe

Haitian immigrant Abner Louima told a New York court on Thursday that police officers who arrested him in 1997 took turns beating him before one sodomised him with a wooden stick in a police station bathroom.

He was giving evidence at the federal trial of five white officers charged with violating his civil rights.

The incident prompted demonstrations against police brutality and inflamed racial tensions in the city.

The Haitian told the jury that one officer, Justin Volpe, had warned him: "I am going to teach you a lesson on how to respect cops."

He went on to describe how the policeman rammed the stick up his rectum and then jammed it in his mouth.


[ image: Officer Volpe goes to court with his lawyer]
Officer Volpe goes to court with his lawyer
Taking the stand on the third day of the trial, Mr Louima at one point was asked to rise and identify the officer. He slowly scanned the courtroom before pointing at Officer Justin Volpe.

Officers Volpe, 26, Charles Schwarz, 35, Thomas Bruder, 32, and Thomas Wiese, 35, are charged with the beating.

Officer Volpe is also charged with sodomising the Haitian with a wooden stick in a precinct bathroom while Officer Schwarz allegedly held him down.

A fifth officer, Sergeant Michael Bellomo, is charged with attempting to cover-up the incident.

The officers deny the charges.

Night club incident

The assault is alleged to have taken place after Mr Louima saw a fellow Haitian being attacked by the officers outside a night club in Brooklyn.

When he got angry and tried to intervene he was thrown to the ground by police, he recalled, adding "they were very physical with me, very angry."

When he came round, he had been handcuffed and was taken to a police car.

The Haitian said he was taken into the stationhouse, where one officer - identified as Schwarz by prosecutors - removed Louima's belt and led him to the bathroom, still handcuffed, with Volpe following.

After the attack, Mr Louima testified, Officer Volpe warned him that if he "ever talked to anyone about what they did to me, he'd kill me and my family and he was not joking."

Mr Louima was taken to hospital with a perforated rectum and bladder and missing teeth following the incident. He underwent three operations and spent weeks in hospital.

Admits lying

Under cross-examination by Marvyn Kornberg, Volpe's lawyer, Mr Louima acknowledged that he was bringing a civil suit against the city for millions of dollars.

He also admitted lying when he said that Officer Volpe had said: "These are Giuliani times," as the police officer sodomised him.

He made up the phrase - an allusion to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's zero-tolerance policing policies - at the instigation of a police assistant in order to draw attention to his case.

Cross-examination will continue on Monday.





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