Additional reporting by Clifford Michel
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A disgraced ex-cop convicted for lying about his role in one of the most notorious acts of police brutality in NYPD history is back on the public payroll — hired by the New York City Housing Authority as a carpenter, taking home a six-figure salary, THE CITY has learned.
Charles Schwarz was convicted of perjury stemming from the 1997 sexual assault on Haitian immigrant Abner Louima inside a Brooklyn police precinct bathroom. The cop was fired by the NYPD and sentenced to five years in federal prison.
In 2015, Schwarz landed a job at NYCHA as a maintenance worker. He quickly moved up to a coveted role as a Housing Authority carpenter, earning $114,000 last year.
Schwarz’s rapid rise at NYCHA contrasts with his brief tenure with Con Edison, where he was hired as a mechanic and fired within a month. When he was let go, he sued, saying a utility manager told him his continued employment would cause “damage to the company’s reputation.”
Late Tuesday NYCHA spokesperson Barbara Brancaccio issued a statement to THE CITY regarding Schwarz’s hiring, voicing support for employing individuals convicted of crimes who have served their sentences:
“NYCHA stands behind fair hiring practices and the Fair Chance Act. With more than 11,000 employees, we have and will continue to hire formerly incarcerated persons who are qualified to perform their job duties while maintaining the safety of residents. New Yorkers have made clear their unwavering support for criminal justice reform and individual rehabilitation during and post-incarceration.”
Case Shocked the City
Schwarz, now 54, was 31 that night in August 1997 when he and his partners responded to a call about a brawl at a Brooklyn nightclub. Louima was brought to the 70th Precinct, where he was assaulted.
Louima told the Daily News from a hospital bed he’d been beaten by the cops in the squad car on the way to the station, then dragged into a precinct bathroom where one cop — later identified as Justin Volpe — sodomized him with a wooden stick. Schwarz was identified by other cops as leading Louima into the bathroom.
Volpe, Schwarz and three other cops were arrested in the incident, and in what prosecutors called a coverup. Volpe switched his plea at trial to guilty and admitted the assault, claiming he believed Louima had sucker-punched him before the arrest.
During the trial, Louima testified that he couldn’t identify the officer who held him down in the precinct, but said it was the same cop who drove him to the stationhouse. Schwarz was identified in police documents as the driver, although it was never proven in court that he was the officer identified by Louima.
On June 8, 1999, Schwarz was convicted of obstruction of justice and violating Louima’s civil rights, and was fired from the NYPD that day.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in 2002, on the grounds of ineffective counsel. A new trial was convened with additional perjury charges related to Schwarz’s statements to investigators.
In 2002, he was convicted of one count of perjury for lying about his actions in the station house. Specifically, Schwarz claimed he didn’t lead Louima to the bathroom, contradicting the accounts of two other officers. The jury could not reach a verdict on other charges against Schwarz related to the assault
Schwarz was sentenced to five years and released in 2007.
In November 2014, he landed a job as a mechanic with Con Edison. He said, in court papers, that he admitted to his perjury conviction on his job application.
Schwarz says a Con Ed administrator told him he was terminated because his continued presence as an employee would cause “potential disruption of business operations.”
In a 2015 lawsuit, Schwarz argued his firing violated a state law barring discrimination based on a person’s criminal history, unless there’s a direct relationship between the offense and the specific employment. He contended his perjury conviction was unrelated to his work for Con Ed checking for gas leaks.
In August 2015, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead dismissed his lawsuit. An appeals court upheld her decision in 2017.
Lucrative NYCHA Gig
Payroll records show Schwarz was hired by NYCHA as a maintenance worker sometime in 2015, earning $199 a day. His total salary in that job in 2015 was $18,930, records show.
NYCHA’s job application form asks all applicants if they have ever been convicted of a felony. If the applicant checks “yes,” they are asked to explain the nature of the charges. The form also asks all applicants if they’d consent to a background check, and warns that any untruthful statements could result in termination.
Brancaccio said Schwarz “fully disclosed his criminal history prior to being hired and has thus far been an employee in good standing throughout his tenure at NYCHA.”
In 2016, he saw his salary rise dramatically when he snagged a job as a NYCHA carpenter and was paid $349 a day to do work as assigned. He made $78,836 in 2016, $98,775 in 2017 and $114,063 last year.
This year, he got another raise and is currently pulling in $356 a day — earning $102,361 through September, records show.
NYCHA carpenters are paid for their work on a daily basis, as needed. The authority’s aging buildings are in constant need of repair and managers have increasingly awarded no-bid work to contractors to supplement work performed by in-house carpenters.
Schwarz’ attorney, Alan Serrins, did not return a call seeking comment. No one answered the door Tuesday at Schwarz’ Staten Island home.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article listed Schwarz’s pay rates as per hour, they are per day.
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