Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rudy - The Mayoralty Years - Parte Une

In 1982, Rudy had been married to his childhood sweetheart, Regina Peruggi, who was also his cousin (first or second depending upon whose version you believe) for 14 years. Suddenly, our man became possessed by the spirit of Henry VIII and claimed to have discovered that he didn't have the correct dispensation from the Catholic Church for said marriage and promptly obtained an annulment. What he had really discovered was Donna Hanover, a soap opera actress whom he had met down in Miami, presumably while he was busy returning Haitian boat people to the Tonton Macoute. In 1984, she became Donna Giuliani, the mother of his children - of whom she later retained custody when she became Donna Hanover again. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

In 1989, Rudy decided to run for Mayor of New York City as a "Liberal" Republican - Liberal because he sought and received the endorsement of the New York State Liberal Party, headed by one Ray Harding. Everyone wondered why Harding would endorse a Republican over Democratic candidate David Dinkins - they were not to find out for another 10 years. Giuliani was narrowly defeated by Dinkins, losing primarily because of low ratings among minorities whose instinct remained unfailingly correct through the next 2 elections.

Although crime in New York had decreased in every year of Dinkins' administration, he never trumpeted the fact and his reputation suffered as a result of the Crown Heights riots. Giuliani's "law and order" campaign played upon racist fears and appealed almost exclusively to upper-class New Yorkers. In a well-publicized 1992 incident, he appeared at a rally for the Policemen's Benevolent Association (PBA), where a mob of off-duty policemen, some in uniform, gathered outside City Hall, shouting racist epithets about Dinkins and bearing subtle signs such as "Dump the washroom attendant". It brought Rudy some bad publicity, but despite receiving a record low percentage of the minority vote, he edged Dinkins in the 1993 election thus becoming the first Republican Mayor of New York City since John Lindsey (a true Liberal) in 1965.

Giuliani's plan for crime reduction was simple: zero-tolerance of petty crimes such as graffiti, turnstile jumping, aggressive "squeegee men", homelessness, etc. To implement this plan, Rudy appointed Bill Bratton as NY Police Commissioner in 1994. Bratton instituted a system called CompStat, which encouraged precinct heads to meet their quota, but also enabled them to underreport crime in their precincts. Thus Bratton was credited with the ensuing crime reduction and in 1996 his picture appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. In a jealous rage, Rudy fired him immediately and continued to take credit for the ever-decreasing crime rate, even though the same same thing was happening in most major American cities during the 1990's.

However, his dreams of glory took a southward turn with the police brutality case that grabbed national headlines in 1997. Abner Louima, a 30-year old Haïtian immigrant, interceded in a fight between two women in a nightclub.. The police were called and a confrontation between the police and the patrons and bystanders erupted. The responding patrol officers included Justin Volpe, Charles Schwarz, Thomas Bruder, and Thomas Wiese, among others. In the ensuing scuffle, officer Volpe thought he was struck by a "sucker punch" and for reasons that remain unclear, identified Louima as his assailant and arrested him.

The arresting officers beat Louima with their fists, nightsticks and hand-held police radios on the ride to the station. The beating continued later, culminating with Louima being sexually abused in a bathroom at the 70th Precinct station house in Brooklyn. Officer Justin Volpe kicked Louima in the groin, then, while Louima's hands were cuffed behind his back, sodimized him with his nightstick and various other degradations that required several operations to repair. I'll skip the rest of the details for the faint of heart (which includes me). Louima also initially claimed that the officers involved in the attack called him a n***** and shouted, "This is Giuliani time" during the beating. He later recanted this claim, and the reversal was used by defense lawyers to cast doubt on the entirety of his testimony.

Volpe initially pleaded not guilty to several counts of violating Louima's civil rights, obstruction of justice and making false statements to police. Midway through the trial, Volpe changed his plea to guilty, confessing to having sodomized Louima. Despite the fact Louima had several broken teeth, Volpe denied that he ever struck Louima in the mouth with the stick and claimed that he only put it very close to Louima's mouth. Volpe also admitted that he had threatened Louima's life; in 1999, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, a $525 fine and restitution in the amount of $277,495.

Charles Schwarz was convicted in 2000 for helping Volpe assault Louima in the bathroom and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Public condemnation of the attack, however, was not universal. For instance, Sean Hannity was one of Louima's biggest critics during the trial, charging that he had fabricated the rape, calling him "lying Louima", and using interviews with people alleging Louima had past sexual relationships with men to bolster the claim that he had sustained his injuries during a "gay sex act." Hannity stopped using the "Lying Louima" epithet after Volpe confessed to sodomizing Louima with the help of another officer.

[Thanks to Wikipedia for their account of the Louima case].

Here endeth the first term of Rudolph Giuliani

Next Rudy - The mayoralty years - Part Deux

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