17 Days In August:A Tale of Cops, Steroids, and The Mob!
By J. R. de Szigethy
The children in the public housing Projects down in Coney Island called NYPD officer Ralph Dols the "Gentle Giant," because he was a kind, soft spoken man, despite his enormous size. Fellow cops and Project residents liked Dols also and were impressed with his caring nature and quiet determination to make the Projects a better place in which to live. Thus, Officer Dols had carved a secure place for himself in his chosen profession, but like many cops, Dols moonlighted in a second job to make ends meet for his wife and little boy at home; Officer Dols was also a drug dealer.
In 1995 Officer Dols became ‘connected’ to the Colombo Mafia Family by marrying Ms. Kim Kennaugh, whose brother, a member of the Colombo Mafia Family, was convicted in 1981 for the murder of a New York restaurant owner. Kennaugh’s first husband, Enrico Carini, was also a member of the Colombo Family, until he was murdered in 1987 while sitting in a car in South Brooklyn. Helping Kim to get over this tragedy was Joel "Joe Waverly" Cacace, who as Underboss of the Colombo Family played a central role in the Mob war that was waged in that Family from 1991-1994. Cacace is also a suspect in the murder of Kim’s husband, although Carini’s mother, according to the Staten Island Advance, has claimed former Gambino Underboss Sammy "the Bull" Gravano was responsible. After her affair with Cacace was over Kennaugh married Officer Dols and somewhere along the line Dols began to sell anabolic steroids to fellow NYPD cops. Dols’ suppliers were members of the Russian Mob, who have extensive operations in Brooklyn, many in partnership with members of the Italian Mafia.
Steroids are powerful drugs that dramatically increase the muscle mass of those who use them in conjunction with a vigorous weight-lifting program. Athletes in high school and college use them, as do professional athletes, particularly football players and ‘professional wrestlers.’ Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura has admitted using them while a wrestler known as "The Body." Baseball slugger Mark McGwire uses natural substances that achieve the same effect of steroids by boosting the body’s natural production of testosterone. Mobsters also use steroids in the belief it will make them tougher than their fellow mobsters. Sammy the Bull Gravano, the Gambino Underboss who murdered over a dozen people, was one of many in the Mob addicted to steroids.
There are two problems associated with steroids abuse: first, there are the side effects, which can be devastating. Long -term steroid use can lead to liver, colon, heart, and sterility problems. Steroids also dramatically increase the libido in most users, prompting them to engage in sexual acts that they normally might not resort to. Also, people under the influence of steroids frequently engage in aggressive, hostile, bizarre, and violent behavior known as ‘roid rages.’ The second problem with steroid use is that it is illegal. Officer Dols knew this, as did all of his fellow cops who bought his drugs, but some cops rationalize that in order to enforce the law, they have to break the law by using steroids to help achieve the muscle mass they believe they need to effectively do their job. Inevitably, the volatile combination of cops and steroids would lead to tragedy of unspeakable proportions, in which a little boy would lose his father, and a devoted father would lose his son.
Early that morning a call for help went out to the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn, where drug dealer Dols had some of his best customers. The call was to respond to a disturbance where two women, one of whom was completely naked, were fighting in the middle of Flatbush Avenue outside a notorious nightclub called the Rendez-vous. By the time the officers arrived a near-riot was underway and the burly cops began the task of dispersing the crowd. Suddenly, without warning, a man in the crowd ran up to Officer Justin Volpe and sucker-punched him in the ear, knocking him to the ground. The man then ran off, with cops in pursuit. Volpe would later be informed that two 70th precinct cops had in custody a Haitian immigrant named Abner Louima they believed to be the one who assaulted him. Once at the stationhouse of the 70th precinct, Louima was escorted into the bathroom. There, Officer Volpe was waiting for his revenge. Louima’s oversized pants had fallen to his ankles when his belt was removed at the processing desk and as he was wearing no underwear, his naked buttocks were exposed. Louima’s hands were cuffed behind his back, thus he was helpless as Volpe began exacting his revenge. Perhaps even Justin Volpe himself did not know what he was about to do, but once Louima was subdued Volpe violently rammed the broken-off handle of a mop up into Louima’s rectum, puncturing a hole in Louima’s colon and bladder. While at least one other cop looked on, Volpe then shoved the stick in Louima’s face, covered with Louima’s feces and blood. "Look what you made me do!" Volpe would later claim he screamed at Louima. Minutes later, Louima was taken to a holding cell, his hands still cuffed behind him. "Get on your knees!" Volpe demanded. The terrified immigrant complied, after which Officer Volpe leaned into his face and warned: "If ever you tell anyone about this, I’ll kill you!"
Eventually, a good cop, Thomas Bruder, would come to Louima’s aid and remove his handcuffs, pull up his pants for him, and call an ambulance. Louima would later state that this cop saved his life.
Louima was taken to Coney Island Hospital, where an emergency surgical team was put together. A surgeon’s knife sliced open the immigrant’s body to determine and repair his injuries. After hours of surgery, Louima’s injuries were finally repaired, but it would be days before the doctors would know if Louima would survive.
At 3:55 p.m., a Coney Island Hospital nurse made a telephone call to the Internal Affairs Bureau, the division of the New York City Police Department whose mission is to investigate crooked cops. The caller had a shocking story to tell, of how a young man was fighting for his life after having been tortured and sodomized while in police custody.
It would later be determined that this was the SECOND such call to IAB about the assault on Abner Louima. The first call had occurred around 10 p.m. the night before, but the call was ignored. Perhaps the IAB staff person who took the call dismissed the caller’s claim as being too outrageous to be true.
Abner Louima is awakened to speak to an Officer from Internal Affairs, Lt. Reinaldo Daniels. There are tubes inserted into various places of Louima’s body and he no longer has a rectum, but rather a colostomy bag placed over the area on his stomach where his large intestine now exits. Louima is in pain and is medicated, yet he still can identify from a series of photographs shown to him by Lt. Daniels the man he claims committed this crime. Lt. Daniels does not know the name of any of the Officers in the photo array, but marks the one Louima has identified.
Later, at IAB headquarters, the marked photograph is identified, and his identity is almost as shocking as the unimaginable crime he is said to have committed; the cop in the photograph is Justin Volpe, the son of retired Detective Bob Volpe, one of the most respected and beloved former cops to have ever served the people of New York.
On this date, Officer Dols was recovering from an incident of a few weeks earlier, when he was struck by a car in a hit-and-run incident outside his Sheepshead Bay home. While only sustaining minor injuries, Dols had to ask himself if this was just a freak accident, or a warning. Did Officer Dols’ steroids suppliers in the Russian mob believe Dols was skimming profits from his sales of steroids to cops? In the papers the next day, Officer Dols would learn of a new threat, both to his ‘second income,’ as well as to his very life!
Mike McAlary of the New York Daily News breaks the story that would stun a nation, and eventually earn McAlary a Pulitzer Prize. McAlary had interviewed Louima from his hospital bed, where he had listened spellbound to his unbelievable story of torture. The Daily News also quoted the accused cop’s father, Bob Volpe: "This is worse that getting a call that he had been shot!" the stunned Detective said of his beloved son. Later that day, police arrested Justin Volpe for the sodomy of Abner Louima.
In the midst of an election campaign for Mayor of New York, the principle characters are scrambling to stay one step ahead of the growing 70th Precinct scandal. The New York Post reveals that Mayor Giuliani and his police Commissioner Howard Safir have met privately with Abner Louima, as has the Reverend Al Sharpton. The Reverend Sharpton would later be accused by a Post reporter of having concocted Louima’s explosive claim that the cops who allegedly beat him in the patrol car stated: "It’s not Dinkins time, anymore; it’s Giuliani Time!"
This statement would polarize a city already in shock over the savage attack that Louima claimed he had been subjected to. Such were the tensions in the various communities in those first hot, Summer days of the scandal that many feared that riots would result. The "Giuliani Time" claim was just the sort of ‘sound-bite’ certain community activists were looking for to step up their attacks on a Mayor whose Police Department had, in a few short years, changed New York City from one of America’s most dangerous cities into the safest large city in the U. S.
But at what price, critics would claim? Abner Louima would become the ‘poster boy’ for the ‘price’ of ‘Giuliani time.’ Only months later would Abner Louima admit that he fabricated the ‘Giuliani time’ remark.
On this date, former New York Mayor David Dinkins met with the Reverend Al Sharpton. Dinkins, New York’s first African-American Mayor, had been defeated for re-election in 1993 by Rudy Giuliani, the former U. S. Attorney who made a name for himself by prosecuting members of the Italian Mafia, including those in the infamous "Commission trial" and "Pizza-connection" trial. While Dinkins had endorsed Sharpton’s opponent Ruth Messenger for the nomination of the Democratic Party for Mayor, Dinkins warmly embraced Sharpton and joined him in a joint visit with Abner Louima.
Dinkins asked Louima if there was anything he could do for him and Louima replied that he was concerned about his family finances. Taking his cue, Sharpton put a call into boxing promoter Don King. The very next day King accompanied Reverend Sharpton to the hospital where King agreed to put Louima on the payroll of Don King productions.
It was ironic for Don King to be sympathetic towards a victim of brutality, as King himself has brutally killed two people. In his younger days, King was a feared associate of the Cleveland Mafia Family who brought in a substantial income through illegal gambling operations in the African-American community. One day in 1954 three men tried to rob one of King’s gambling houses and King opened fire on them. When the smoke had cleared, one of the men was dead, but the local Prosecutor ruled the death a ‘justifiable homicide.’ In 1966 Don King brutally kicked a former employee to death in broad daylight on a Cleveland sidewalk. The jury convicted King of second-degree murder, which carried a maximum sentence of life in prison. However, in a secret proceeding, Judge Hugh Corrigan reduced King’s charge down to Manslaughter. King biographer Jack Newfield would years later uncover FBI documents which showed Judge Corrigan had been bribed by "Jack White" Licavoli, who would eventually rise to be Godfather of the Cleveland Family.
For the Manslaughter rap, King spent 3 years in the Marion Correctional Institution, the same facility now housing John Gotti. In 1995 Federal Prosecutors in Manhattan indicted King and Don King Productions for filing false insurance claims with Lloyds of London. The first trial ended with a hung jury. During the second trial, I asked King if he ever had dealings with Charlie "The Crab" Carabbia, a Cleveland Family gambling boss who was murdered in 1980 just days after informing Sheriff James Traficant he was blackmailing one of his friends. The shock-haired King gave me his famous smile and evaded my question. King would later be acquitted and told the Media, "This jury was the very best – and I’ve had so many!"
Officer Charles Schwarz is arrested for the assault on Abner Louima, charged with being the accomplice of Volpe. Schwarz is a giant of a man, standing over 6 feet tall and is very heavily built. Four theories begin to emerge among those reporters scrambling to get a piece of one of the biggest police corruption stories of the century; 1. That the entire story is a hoax. 2. That Justin Volpe did sodomize Louima, as a result of insanity. 3. That Volpe did sodomize Louima, as a result of racism. 4. That Volpe was using steroids, and sodomized Louima out of ‘roid rage.’
By this time, New York City had been convulsed, and several hundred cops were now investigating EVERY cop within the 70th Precinct. The top brass in Internal Affairs believe that for many 70th Precinct cops, only the threat of being charged with a crime will be enough to force them to break down the ‘blue wall of silence’ and testify as to what they know.
The New York Post reveals the identity of someone that Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir will hail as a "hero," 70th Precinct Officer Eric Turetzky. Facing a ‘G. O. 15,’ a mandatory hearing NYPD cops must attend at which they must answer any and all questions or face dismissal from the force, Turetzky came forward and claimed he saw Officer Charles Schwarz lead the handcuffed Abner Louima into the 70th Precinct bathroom on the night in question, and later saw Justin Volpe leading Louima to his cell, carrying a stick in his hand.
Eric Turetzky would soon be promoted to the rank of Detective in the Internal Affairs Bureau. However, at the Louima trial, a somewhat different picture of Turetzky would emerge. Federal Prosecutors, in their Direct examination of Turetzky, would reveal that on the night of the disturbance outside the club Rendez-vous, Officer Turetzky ordered a group of on-lookers to disperse from the area or face arrest. A young Haitian woman then stated to Turetzky: "You can’t arrest me! I’m pregnant!" ‘Hero cop’ Turetzky then replied: "If you don’t move, I’ll kick you in the stomach!"
On this date Mike McAlary published an exclusive interview with Justin Volpe’s fiancée, a quiet, proud, and dignified young woman, whom he only identified by her first name, Susan.
"Justin wouldn’t do this to our life," she softly stated. As to allegations that Justin was a racist, Susan stated: "What color were our children going to be? It’s like Justin tells the guys in the station, ‘Susan isn’t my black girlfriend. She is my girlfriend, period!’" Susan spoke of how she had been accepted with open arms by Justin’s family. "His father, Robert, and Justin’s mother treat me like their daughter. His father has come to (her family home in) Brooklyn. We traveled to see my family in Virginia. We stayed with my sister and her kids for a week."
"Justin I liked because he is different. He makes me laugh. We are together always. Vacations in the Bahamas and the West Indies. You can’t lead one life and then do that, in the precinct bathroom. Racism isn’t some switch you can turn on and off." "Justin’s father was saying this morning: ‘You spend your whole life on one side. And then one day you wake up and your son is Public Enemy No. 1.’ "We are both crushed." "We talked about racism many times. Cried about it at night. Where would we live? We talked about moving to Park Slope. I am from Coney Island. We both knew what the score is."
When asked about the politics of the growing scandal, Susan brushed off Louima’s "Giuliani time" claim. "The thing about it being ‘Giuliani time’ is silly," Susan said. " "We thought it was OUR time!"
The New York Post reports that two more police officers have been arrested, Thomas Wiese and Thomas Bruder. Both men are huge, further fueling the steroids theory. Wiese had taken and flunked a polygraph in which he tried to exculpate himself and his partner Schwarz. Despite being the cop who saved Louima’s life, Bruder is charged with being one of four cops who beat Louima in a police car while one was said to have yelled the "Giuliani time" remark.
Based on the evidence, Prosecutors would eventually develop a ‘third cop theory,’ that there were THREE cops in the bathroom during the assault on Louima. The theory would not be revealed until June 17 of this year, in a letter from one of the Prosecutors to one of the Defendant’s attorneys. Reaction by the attorneys was immediate, and, some would say, predictable. Justin Volpe’s attorney Marvyn Kornberg told the New York Post that the three-cop theory was a "hoax." Joseph Tacopina, the attorney for Thomas Wiese, said the theory has "no basis in reality." Steven Worth, the attorney for Charles Schwarz, who by that time had been convicted as Volpe’s accomplice, stated, "It is astounding that at this late date that the government for the first time takes the position that there was a third person in the bathroom."
The New York Post article about the "three-cop theory" appeared on June 24, but this was not the first time the world had heard of this theory. On June 1, I posted in the Forum of AmericanMafia.com ‘J. R.’s Three Cop Theory!’ which was my new analysis of the evidence in response to a Daily News report of two days earlier, in which it was claimed that Justin Volpe was naming Thomas Wiese as his accomplice, and not Charles Schwarz. In regards to Mr. Kornberg’s claim that this theory is a hoax, it is not: it is a theory, and it, like the steroids theory, is either valid or not valid. As Mr. Kornberg’s client has a history of lying it would be premature for anyone to discount either of these theories until all of the facts are in.
Hero cop Bob Volpe, the father of accused ‘plunger cop’ Justin Volpe breaks his silence with the Media, telling the New York Post’s Murray Weiss that the investigation has turned into an "out of control mob witch hunt" intent on "lynching my son!" Volpe, as any father would, painted a portrait of his son that showcased his good points; how young Volpe, very quietly and without seeking recognition, performed volunteer work on behalf of the homeless, Veterans, and neighborhood kids.
Such behavior is what would be expected from the son of Bob Volpe. Early in his career, Bob Volpe worked in Narcotics enforcement, risking his life to save New York from drug dealers. During the course of his public service, two of Volpe’s partners, NYPD Detectives Joseph Strano and Joseph Picciano, were murdered by drug dealers. The pain of his partners’ murder was something he never would forget, nor would he let any reporter he spoke to and how they, not he, were the "real heroes!"
Had, in a cruel twist of Fate, Bob Volpe’s son Justin come under the influence of a drug dealer, who sold steroids to him? That question would not be answered in Court many months later, when Justin Volpe pleaded guilty to the torture attack on Abner Louima. Nor would young Volpe identify his accomplice in the assault.
Instead, Volpe tearfully apologized to his family for the shame he had brought upon them. This show of emotion was in stark contrast to Justin’s demeanor throughout the trial. As his attorney had forbidden him to speak to reporters, I respected that request but one day my frustrations got the better of me and I walked up to Justin in the hallway of the Courthouse and asked how he could be so calm and cool while his father was yelling to any reporter who would listen to him about the course of the trial. Without missing a beat to think, Justin looked me in the eyes and softly stated: "I have to be strong for my Dad!"
When, days later, Justin pleaded guilty to one of the most horrific police brutality crimes in U. S. history, there were tears in his eyes, as well as those of at least one reporter present. His father, seated to my left, just sat there stoically; perhaps he felt he had to be strong for his son.
After the proceeding, Justin was taken downstairs, where he would say goodbye to his beloved father, now separated from him by a thick partition of Plexiglas. "I love you," Justin said. "I love you," his father replied. "Be strong."
Justin Volpe’s fate was sealed on this day, when the decision was made that the U. S. Attorney’s Office – Eastern District of New York, would take over the prosecution of the assault on Abner Louima. The investigation would soon be marred by allegations against Prosecutors and Witnesses alike. In January 1998 the investigation was stalled after Prosecutors became convinced that Louima had fabricated his statement that cops had made the infamous "Giuliani Time" remark while allegedly beating him. The next month, Prosecutors hauled before the Grand Jury Justin Volpe’s father Bob, and his fiancée Susan. I ran into Bob Volpe in the Courthouse that day he came to testify, and he was furious. First, he told me that his son was innocent and the victim of a "Tawana Brawley-style hoax," a reference to a celebrated false claim of a young African American woman that was championed by the Reverend Al Sharpton. Volpe also complained that there was a double standard in the Media; that the press was expressing sympathy for the mother of Monica Lewinsky, who had been subpoenaed to testify against her daughter, but no one sympathized with him, having been subpoenaed to testify against his son. I promised Bob that I would investigate his claim that his son was innocent.
As angry as Bob Volpe was over his being subpoenaed, he was even more furious over the treatment of a woman he had already accepted into his family, his son’s fiancée Susan. It had become known that Prosecutors wanted to portray the assault on Louima as an act of racism, but there were three women who stood in the way of such a claim; the African American wife of Thomas Wiese, the Puerto Rican girlfriend of Thomas Bruder, and the African-American fiancée of Justin Volpe. Once before the Grand Jury, Volpe’s fiancée was viciously attacked by lead Prosecutor Cathy Palmer, who demanded Susan disclose the details of every sexual partner she had had since high school. Young Susan would not budge nor waiver in her support of her fiancée and the question as to whom she may have had sex with back in high school was seen by many as having no relevance as to whether or not Justin Volpe assaulted Abner Louima.
Members of Palmer’s own Prosecution team were so shocked and outraged by her actions that complaints were forwarded to the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, An investigation was launched on charges of Witness tampering and evidence tampering. At that time, the U. S. Attorney’s Office – Eastern District of New York was still trying to recover credibility in the wake of losing four Colombo Family War trials due to the improper relationship of FBI agent Lynn de Vecchio and his Colombo Family hitman/FBI informant Greg Scarpa. Soon after the ‘investigation of the investigation’ was launched, Cathy Palmer resigned her position with the U. S. Attorney’s Office.
On this date Mike McAlary runs his exclusive interview with Justin Volpe. McAlary wrote: "Volpe was controlled and soft-spoken. He plays the victim well. He is a weightlifter and built like a fire hydrant. It was easy to see him as some version of Mark Fuhrman on steroids."
When, months later, Volpe would go on trial, his attorney Marvyn Kornberg categorically denied his client rammed a stick up the rectum of Abner Louima, but rather Louima had suffered these horrific injuries during a consensual homosexual act inside the nightclub Rendez-vous. When it would later, finally become obvious to both Kornberg and Volpe’s father that Justin had lied about being innocent, Kornberg nevertheless continued to vehemently deny that his client ever used steroids. In keeping with the ‘feces theme’ that permeates this case, Kornberg recently told WB11 News: "whoever says he was involved in steroids is full of crap!"
On this date Officer Thomas Bruder, one of the four indicted cops, broke his silence, telling his story to the New York Post’s Steve Dunleavy. Bruder would emerge at his trial as the most likeable, respected, and believable of the five defendants. It was the consensus of those I spoke to in the Courtroom that Officer Bruder and Sgt. Michael Bellomo should never have been indicted in the first place. Their jury would later agree.
In that first interview with the Media, the young officer told Dunleavy that on the night in question he heard nothing irregular and saw nothing irregular in the stationhouse while the attack on Louima was occurring. Bruder also complained of how his life had been turned upside down by the events he was caught up in. The Post reported: ‘Bruder, a husky young man, says: "I can’t show my face anywhere. I can’t even go to the gym!"’
Was young Bruder the ONLY 70th Precinct cop who had stopped working out at his gym? Or did many other 70th Precinct cops, some of whom were Officer Dols’ best customers, stop working out and ‘dry out’ from their steroids habit, at least for the short term, once they were the targets of scrutiny by hundreds of law enforcement professionals?
If so, by this time two weeks into the scandal, Officer Dols’ customer base had dried up. Even if Dols were to attempt to make a delivery to one of his customers, he would have to fear in the back of his mind that the cop might already have been caught in something illegal, and thus be wearing a wire. Dols knew that such a sting could send him to prison for over 20 years. Dols must have also known that this possibility would not escape his suppliers in the Russian Mob, as if he got indicted on drug trafficking charges, the only way out of such a mess would be to 'flip’ and testify against all of the cops he sold drugs to – AND against his suppliers in the Russian Mob. Officer Dols was thus left literally ‘holding the bag,’ a bag full of steroids that he could no longer sell, and whose suppliers wanted their cut of the profits. In just two week’s time, Officer Dols had gone from being an asset to the Russian mob, to a liability.
As the tensions in New York continue to rise under the heat of a hot Summer’s sun, leaders of New York’s numerous and powerful Labor unions are planning a ‘Justice rally’ for August 29th, at which they plan to unleash thousands of protesters in response to the assault against Abner Louima by cops working for the "Giuliani Time" Administration. The political agenda is obvious, even though it is conceded by most that Giuliani’s Democratic opponent, Ruth Messenger, has little chance of being elected.
As promised, thousands would march across the Brooklyn Bridge on that day, where outside City Hall Mayor Giuliani would be hung in effigy. It probably would not have mattered to the crowd had Abner Louima publicly apologized on that day for fabricating the "Giuliani time" remark, nor would it apparently matter to some of the attorneys of the accused when investigative reporters would later begin to uncover the awful truth about what happened in the 70th Precinct on the morning of August 9, 1997.
Still, there are consequences for one’s behavior, as Justin Volpe would one day learn. One African American following this case told me simply, in her Moralist’s term: "What goes around, comes around!"
Fully recovered from his wounds suffered during the hit-and-run incident, Officer Dols returned to full duty, spending a complete shift at the housing Projects on Coney Island. The residents and kids were glad to see the "Gentle Giant" back, in what they did not know was now his ONLY profession.
Later that night, Dol’s wife and little boy anxiously awaited his return home. While the "Gentle Giant" parked his car in the ‘Mobbed-up’ neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, Officer Dols heard the approach of a speeding auto. Inside were two men, both wearing black outfits and gloves, holding guns. They opened fire and then sped off. Officer Dols died hours later in the same operating room of Coney Island Hospital where 17 days earlier doctors had saved Abner Louima’s life.
Copyright © 1999 PLR International