The Making of a Guilty Plea

Volpe Family Adviser Played Key Role

De Szigethy says that no matter how the trial turns out, his feelings about Louima will not change. "Maybe [the accused officers] did this to this man, but this man is a liar and a fraud [because] he is involved with Johnnie Cochran and all these other things," he contends.

He claims that Louima lied on the witness stand to protect the Reverend Al Sharpton, who many in de Szigethy's camp believed had urged Louima to say that, while pummeling him, cops shouted, "It's Giuliani time."

"[Louima] said on the witness stand that it was this total stranger who convinced him to make the 'Giuliani time' remark and not Sharpton, with whom he had met," de Szigethy argued. "This conveniently protects Sharpton from being sued like he was by Steven Pagones [the Dutchess County prosecutor whom the black activist had falsely accused of raping Tawana Brawley]."

Sharpton, who repeatedly has denied the charge, contends that Volpe's decison to admit guilt vindicates Louima and himself. Although Sharpton did not know what Volpe would plead to, he said he would urge Judge Eugene Nickerson to hit Volpe with the strongest possible sentence.

"The judge should remember that not only did Volpe torture and sodomize Abner— he also raped his character by falsely accusing him of engaging in a homosexual act," Sharpton says.

The civil rights activist who helped stir public anger in the wake of the alleged attack on Louima, and who recently organized nonviolent civil disobedience sit-ins to protest the police slaying of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo, also intends to file a complaint with a lawyers' disciplinary committee against Kornberg.

Sharpton predicted that Volpe's plea eventually may help the Diallo family. "Kornberg [who represents one of the officers accused in that case] would be reluctant to come up with an outrageous defense for the cops who pumped 19 shots into Amadou's body," he explained. He suggested that those officers also consider copping a plea.

"If they admit that they screwed up, that will shake up this country and change the whole attitude toward black people's complaints of abuse against cops," he asserted.

Sharpton added that Volpe's change of heart could not have come at a worse time for Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is considering a run for the U.S. Senate. "It is ironic that on the day before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission was to question Giuliani under subpoena, Volpe's plea comes down and the mayor is thrust in the public spotlight," he said. "After Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo, does Giuliani still want to be quoted as saying that what happened to them were isolated incidents?"

Ultimately, it may have been Jesus Christ pounding on Justin Volpe's guilty conscience that caused him to abandon the incredible defense strategy that Louima was injured during consensual sex before he got involved with police. Patrick Antoine said Volpe noticed he was wearing a cross and asked if he believed in Jesus. "I said, 'Yes,' " Antoine recalled at the trial. "He told me he believed in Jesus, too."

Additional reporting: Karen Mahabir and AP

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