BROOKLYN, NY - Cop Trial

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Thu, 20 May 1999 06:47:28 -0400


POLICE-WITNESS SHOCKER:
VOLPE BOASTED OF IT ALL
By DEVLIN BARRETT

An out-of-control Justin Volpe bragged about sodomizing Abner Louima with a
stick - then brazenly shoved it in a fellow cop's face and ordered, "Smell
it" - a surprise witness said yesterday.

"He said he took the stick and put it five or six inches up his [rectum] -
took it out, put it around his mouth and teeth area, like he was showing it
to him, and then hit him," Sgt. Kenneth Wernick said in the most damning
testimony in the sensational trial.
"He told him that if he told anyone, he'd kill him and his whole family."

The burly cop said Volpe made the stunning admission on the main floor of
the 70th Precinct station house - and then asked Wernick, "You wanna go in
the bathroom and see the stick?"

Volpe took him to the bathroom, picked up the stick, walked into another
room and began shoving the stick in another cop's face, Wernick said.

"Smell it! See this! Smell it!" Volpe said, according to Wernick.

"I laughed," Wernick testified. "He said, 'You see this s--, you see
this...?'" and walked out. Wernick said he did not see any feces or blood on
the stick.

One Brooklyn federal court juror wiped away tears after hearing Wernick's
gripping, graphic account.

Volpe is charged with sodomizing Louima with the stick on Aug. 9, 1997,
while Officer Charles Schwarz held the Haitian immigrant down.

They and two other officers, Thomas Bruder and Thomas Wiese, are accused of
beating Louima in a patrol car earlier that night.
Wernick said he did not believe Volpe's stunning admission when he first
heard it.

"First of all, I didn't think anybody would do it, and if they did it, they
wouldn't talk about it," he said.

When they were together in the bathroom, Volpe asked Wernick what he should
do with the stick.

"I said I don't know, take it home," Wernick testified.

The cop said he walked outside the station with Volpe, and saw him raise the
stick next to a Dumpster, but didn't see him throw it away.

Wernick, a gray-haired bear of a cop, has a history of disciplinary problems
stretching back to 1987 for offenses ranging from leaving a foot post to
punching a suspect who challenged him to a fight.

Chaos erupted in the courtroom when prosecutor Alan Vinegrad prepared to
question him about possible evidence of a police union cover-up in the case.

Judge Eugene Nickerson called a long sidebar to discuss the developments.

During the break, excited spectators began talking in the packed courtroom
and the judge sent a U.S. Marshal down the aisle to quiet them.

After heated debate, Nickerson suspended testimony for the rest of the
afternoon, sending the jurors home while defense lawyers try to work out
their next move.

In the past, all of the defense lawyers have moved for separate trials, and
the combination of the devastating testimony against Volpe and the specter
of wider cop conspiracy allegations may prompt them to renew those requests.

Just a few hours before Wernick's testimony, one of those lawyers, Joseph
Tacopina, renewed his request for a severance but was denied.

The "conspiracy" controversy swirling through the trial centers around the
frenzied days immediately after the alleged sodomy attack in the bathroom of
the 70th Precinct police station.

Lawyers at sidebar with the judge said Wernick asked a PBA delegate to get
him a lawyer, and waited for days without hearing any response.

Eventually, Wernick got his own lawyer and agreed to cooperate with the
state and federal probes into the case.

Defense lawyers said they feared any mention of Wernick's attempts to get a
lawyer would leave the jury with the impression the PBA was trying to
prevent witnesses from coming forward - and prejudice the jury against their
clients.

Wernick's testimony was not the only account yesterday of incriminating
words spoken by Volpe.

A second alleged victim, Patrick Antoine, said that soon after the alleged
bathroom attack on Louima, Volpe brought him into the bathroom and started
talking.

"He told me sorry. He told me that he was like somebody who was going
crazy," said Antoine.

Volpe saw a cross hanging from Antoine's neck and asked if he believed in
Jesus, Antoine said.

"He told me that he believed in Jesus, too," said Antoine. "After that, he
told me that when somebody hits me, he hits them back.
"He told me to forget about it."