Community says no to Volpe pardon

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 4:34 p.m.
Community says no to Volpe pardon

Just the outrage that led to shoe leather being worn to bear threads along the Brooklyn Bridge and New York streets; plus the sore throats from the hollering; and the continued deterioration of police/community relations in the wake of the police sodomy and beating of a young father of two, Abner Louima, was enough to rekindle a furious collective recollection this week. It was an ominous time for the city. A tinder box in the eyes of some.

The story made international headlines, and now it is back in the news this week because the sodomizer--then police office Justin Volpe, 36, wants President George Bush to give him a pardon or to reduce his 30-year sentence. The alleged sodomy of Michael Mineo by at least one NYPD cop, Richard Kern, this October, spurred painful memories in New York City of the 1997 torture and beating of Louima at the hands of Volpe in a Brooklyn precinct bathroom. "Hell no, Justin Volpe should not get a pardon," said Edward Harris, a documentary filmmaker and Louima supporter. "If Abner Louima has to live with that memory, that pain and that humiliation every day, then it's only right that he [Volpe] has to do every single minute of the time of his sentence."

Standing outside a Flatbush nightclub in August 1997, Louima vocally objected to how the police were treating some people during a disturbance. Louima said he was manhandled in the patrol car and beaten and tortured inside the 70th Precinct station house by several white police officers. As Louima was held down by Officer Charles Schwarz, Volpe, shoved a broken broomstick up his rectum. Volpe ruptured Louima's bladder and colon and he underwent months of treatment in hospital.

A controversial trial followed in which police attorney Marvin Kornberg announced that Louima was not viciously assaulted in the 70th Precinct bathroom in the earshot of dozens of nonchalant officers. The severe injuries he said, came from a homosexual act with another man. The charge further infuriated residents and supporters of the seriously injured Haitian immigrant.

The resilient community protests that were taken up by the grassroots to celebrities and elected officials, chipped away at the notorious "blue wall of silence"--the cops' undisputed code of loyalty.

After two years of denials, as a mountain of evidence threatened to bury him and colleagues started talking, Volpe finally admitted that he did indeed sodomize Abner Louima. Schwarz got five years for his role of pinning Louima down during the assault. In a tense time, which had then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani continue to be a polarizing figure, Thomas Wiese, Thomas Bruder, Francisco Rosario and his partner, Rolando Aleman, were also convicted of lying to investigators about what happened.

Hoping for leniency, Volpe has just sent an application to the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney asking to considered by exiting president George Bush for at least a reduction in his sentence.

"For this sick and sadistic act of shoving a stick up another man's rectum and damaging him for life, he should spend every minute of his 30 years in prison," declared Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron, "because he set a precedent that was copied by in an act that we are dealing with right now. These three officers in the Michael Mineo case are indicted for an assault, which was following Volpe's example. They'd better not think of letting him out or reducing his sentence."