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Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday defended the Housing Authority’s decision to hire a disgraced ex-cop convicted of lying about his role in the Abner Louima police brutality case, saying the former officer paid his “debt to society.”
Charles Schwarz, who was fired after the 1997 attack on Louima inside a Brooklyn precinct bathroom, is currently earning a six-figure salary as a NYCHA carpenter, THE CITY revealed Wednesday.
De Blasio was asked during a news conference whether it was a good idea for NYCHA, which has been criticized for years for poor management practices, to hire Schwarz, who was convicted of perjury in 2002.
“It’s a fair question, but I would say to you all of this was out in the open. Everything that he did was disclosed before he was hired,” the mayor responded.
“We have to be consistent about our values,” he added. “If someone has paid their debt to society, they’re supposed to go on with their lives. And we do not discriminate against people once that is complete.”
A Horrific Case
The Louima case shook the city more than two decades ago. Officer Justin Volpe pleaded guilty to sodomizing the Haitian immigrant with a wooden stick inside the 70th Precinct stationhouse’s bathroom. Schwarz was charged with holding Louima down during the attack.
Schwarz was convicted in 1999 of obstruction of justice and violating Louima’s civil rights, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. He was subsequently convicted of perjury for lying about his actions that night, and was sentenced to five years in prison.
In 2014, he landed a job with Con Edison checking for gas leaks, but was fired after management decided his continued employment would damage the company’s reputation. He sued but lost, and then snagged a job as a $199-a-day maintenance worker at NYCHA sometime in 2015.
His paycheck grew dramatically when NYCHA promoted him to carpenter, paying him $349 per day in 2016, 2017 and 2018 — and awarding him a raise to $356 per day this year.
Schwarz, 54, made $114,000 in 2018. He’s pulled in $102,000 so far this year.
‘Not the Napoleonic Code’
Applicants for NYCHA carpenter jobs must have performed five years of apprenticeship or three years as an apprentice plus additional vocational training to be eligible.
On Thursday, THE CITY asked City Hall whether Schwarz had met those requirements. A response was pending.
NYCHA management previously told THE CITY that the ex-cop had disclosed his prior conviction in his job application.
The mayor has long supported hiring individuals who’ve served their sentences as long as they crime they committed isn’t relevant to the job. In June 2015, he signed the Fair Chance Act barring hiring discrimination against ex-offenders. He reiterated that stance Thursday.
“If you know someone who did something wrong and they paid the price for it and you don’t see any specific evidence that it’s going to happen again, I think that conforms with our entire justice system and how we act on things,” he said. “We do not assume that something bad is going to happen. It’s not the Napoleonic code. It’s not, ‘Guilty until proven innocent.”
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