White Policeman Sentenced to 30 Years for Attacking Black Man
(CNSNews.com) - A white former patrolman was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Monday for assaulting a black immigrant from Haiti with a broomstick in a New York City precinct station bathroom - an attack described by prosecutors as one of the worst acts of police brutality in city history.
Justin Volpe, 27, who pleaded guilty during his trial, could have faced life without possibility of parole.
"I hurt many people. I was and still am ashamed. ... I am extremely sorry,'' Volpe said in a statement to US District Judge Eugene Nickerson.
"I must and I will pay for my crime,'' Volpe said.
Wire service reports say the victim, Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, was sodomized with a broken broomstick in a police station bathroom and hospitalized for 2 1/2 months. He was falsely arrested outside a New York City nightclub during a malee on August 9, 1997, by Volpe and other officers of Brooklyn's 70th precinct.
However, while addressing the court before the sentencing, Louima declined to ask the judge for any specific punishment. "I'm sure the court will make a wise and fair decision,'' he said.
Prosecutor Alan Vinegard asked Nickerson to impose the maximum, saying Volpe had engaged in a pattern of self-serving lies to cover up the attack, including contending that Louima's injuries were caused by gay sex.
Vinegard called Volpe's initial assertions of innocence a "cowardly, shameful and humiliating fraud he tried to perpetrate on the court, fellow officers of the city police department and the city of New York.''
Vinegard said that, although Volpe now claims he was ashamed, at the time of the assault the officer bragged to other officers about "how he broke a man down.''
"He actually went and retrieved the stick with Mr. Louima's feces still on it and walked around the precinct, brandishing this feces-filled stick in front of his fellow police officers,'' Vinegard said. He said that showed Volpe's "twisted sense of pride ... about his animalistic brutalization of another human being.''
Volpe's lawyer, Marvin Kornberg, urged the judge not to impose more than 20 years in prison. "It's enough punishment. It's enough of a deterrent. ... A life has not been taken here,'' he said.
Kornberg also described in detail how Volpe turned from contending he was innocent to pleading guilty. He said Volpe had suppressed the facts in his mind and went to trial "believing to himself he was innocent. ... As the trial progressed, his mind started to recall the events of that evening.''
The 1997 attack on the black Haitian immigrant by white officers strained relations between police and minorities, who said it reflected widespread abuse. A multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed on Louima's behalf also alleged that rogue officers were shielded by a "blue wall of silence'' - a code among officers to never turn one another in.