Last month, we lauded playwright Alice Childress for being the first African-American woman to direct an off-Broadway play.
Once the U.S. Attorney was investigating the case, the dynamics of the case took a heck of a turn. Within a few days, the sewers and catch basins in the surrounding area of the 70th Precinct, the precinct where the brutalization of Louima occurred, were searched and the “stick” used to sodomize him was found in a sewer. Commanders, deputy commanders and some officers of the 70th Precinct were transferred, suspended or placed on desk duty. Witnesses were sought and interviewed, and their account of Louima’s brutalization provided the facts to indict, arrest and prosecute all the officers who took part in the brutality.
After initially meeting Thompson on Court Street that early morning, I saw him infrequently during the investigation of the case. However, my next interaction was on the day that one of the officers who brutalized Louima, Justine Volpe, was to plead guilty to the charges. As I waited on a very long line to enter the United States Eastern District Courthouse to be present during Volpe’s plea, Thompson, as he was walking to the courthouse, saw me standing in line and said, “Cas, what are you doing here?”
I responded that I was trying to get in to see the plea.
Thompson then said, “Come with me.”
As he entered the courthouse, with me walking behind him, he said to the guard, “She’s with me.”
Once inside, he went his way and I took the elevator to the courtroom. It was overflowing with the media, local activists, local politicians and clergy. As Volpe pleaded guilty and publicly stated the brutal acts he committed on Louima, the only sound heard in the courtroom were his words. When he paused to take a breath, the entire courtroom, filled with anywhere from 50 to 100 people, was still.
My eyes were also on Volpe’s father, a former police officer, who appeared to be in complete shock as Volpe spoke. But as I listened to Volpe’s plea and admission to his brutal act on Louima, several things loomed in my mind. How could any person do such brutal acts to another person? And I recalled when Louima was given photo arrays, while in the hospital, to identify the police officers who had brutalized him, all the various machines he was hooked up to—blood pressure monitor, heart monitor, brainwave monitor—started beeping. Clearly, the effect of seeing the photo of Volpe created a physical response from Louima.
Thompson, the young man I met on Court Street early one weekend morning was very instrumental in getting justice, not only for Louima but also for the residents of Brooklyn and New York City and the citizens of this country. The “People’s Prosecutor,” not knowing that he would be assigned the Louima matter, was instrumental in assisting his friend Thomas seek justice because the brutality affected each and every one of us.
Thompson, the criminal justice reform champion, listened to his friend on Court Street about the impact of this police brutality on Louima and decided the case needed to be handled by the U.S. attorney’s office because of the lack of confidence of the then district attorney.