N E W Y O R K, July 11, 2001 -- A $9 million settlement has been reached in a
civil rights lawsuit filed by a Haitian immigrant tortured in a
police station bathroom, The Associated Press has learned.
Lawyers for the city, police and Abner Louima, citing a gag
order, refused to discuss the tentative settlement. But they
confirmed that the parties were scheduled to meet with a federal
magistrate in Brooklyn this afternoon to possibly finalize the
Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity say the deal would
be around $9 million, with part paid by the city and part by the
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. A settlement of that size would
be the largest ever for a single police brutality claim in city
Louima sued for $155 million in 1998, claiming officers at
Brooklyn's 70th Precinct conspired to create a "blue wall of
silence and lies to obstruct justice." The civil rights suit
charged police and PBA officials with condoning an "environment in
which the most violent police officers believed they would be
insulated" from prosecution.
In three criminal trials, he testified about an ordeal stemming
from his arrest in a street brawl outside a Brooklyn nightclub on
Aug. 9, 1997. Charges against Louima were later dropped.
Louima was handcuffed and taken to the precinct. Once there,
Officer Justin Volpe — mistakenly believing Louima had punched him
— sought revenge by sodomizing Louima with a broken broomstick and
threatening to kill him if he reported it.
Volpe pleaded guilty and is serving 30 years. A jury found
another officer, Charles Schwarz, guilty of pinning Louima down
during the assault; four other officers were convicted of lying to
authorities about what happened.
An earlier settlement agreement was abandoned soon after it was
reached in March. Under that deal, Louima would have received a $9
million payment from the city and the Police Benevolent
Association, but would have dropped his demand for reforms in the
way the New York Police Department deals with officers accused of
Community activists immediately expressed unhappiness that the
deal would not address changes in NYPD operations. Soon after the
deal was announced, Louima and his attorneys reconsidered.
It was not immediately clear how the new settlement would
address issues involving NYPD operations.
The settlement, if approved, would close the books on a case
that sparked outrage across the city. Last month, the federal
government shelved a broad civil rights case against the police