“I am healed, thank God,” says Louima, the Haitian immigrant whose name became synonymous with police brutality and whose ensuing civil suit resulted in a historic $8.75 million payout by the city.
“But I still have little complications from time to time, a little pain. It’s definitely more intense around the time of year when it happened.”
Louima, 40, is as understated as he is soft-spoken. When he says “it,” he is talking about the summer morning nearly 10 years ago when he became the victim of one the city’s most unspeakable abuses of power.
Louima was arrested Aug. 9, 1997, outside a Brooklyn nightclub after he was mistaken for a man who scuffled with police called to break up a fight.
After being beaten in a squad car on the way to the 70th Precinct station house in Flatbush, Louima was hauled into a station bathroom, where an angry officer shoved a wooden stick from a plunger into his rectum.
“I broke a man down last night,” Officer Justin Volpe bragged to other cops after he threatened to kill Louima if he told, according to subsequent court testimony.
A cop said he loaned Volpe a pair of gloves before the attack, only to have them returned covered with blood.
Left to bleed in a holding cell, hours passed before Louima was transported to a hospital, where – still being treated like a criminal – he was handcuffed to a bed.
Days later, after the story broke, thousands of angry demonstrators marched across the Brooklyn Bridge waving protest signs and plungers.
For weeks, demonstrators camped out in front of the 70th Precinct station house, tormenting cops with chants and protests.
But the victim did not exaggerate his perforated colon, his ruptured bladder or the broken teeth he suffered when the soiled plunger stick was shoved in his mouth.
“It’s still part of my daily life unfortunately,” Louima told The Post in an exclusive interview.
“But I try very hard to put it behind me. Even if I see a police officer, sometimes it brings back bad memories.”
A confession got Volpe 30 years in jail, but not before defense lawyers falsely claimed Louima suffered his injuries elsewhere during a gay sex encounter.
Three officers, Thomas Bruder, Thomas Wiese and Charles Schwarz, were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, but had their convictions overturned by a federal appeals court.
Schwarz was later convicted of lying about his role in the attack. He served five years in jail, finishing his stint in an upstate halfway house on May 4.
Bruder and Wiese have sued in state Supreme Court to get their jobs back.
Ten years later, the case still stirs emotions.
“When Louima was dragged into that stall, I felt like all of us were dragged in there with them,” said former federal prosecutor Kenneth Thompson, who delivered the opening statement at the trial of the three cops.
“It was one of the most important cases I’ll probably ever handle as a lawyer.”
The case had special significance for Thompson, whose mother, a retired police officer, had walked a beat on 125th Street in Harlem.
Though Thompson spent much of his time in precincts as a child visiting his mother, his ties to cops didn’t keep the black man from being harassed by them as an adult.
Thompson said that when the feds got Volpe to confess, the significance was far reaching.
“I think people now realize that police officers, when they do wrong, can be held accountable in a court of law,” he said.
Louima, a married father of three, later received $8.75 million, the largest settlement ever in a city police-brutality case.
After legal fees, Louima was left with about $5.8 million.
Louima, who left Haiti in 1990, has used his money to establish a nonprofit foundation to help his impoverished homeland.
In Haiti, he is helping to build several hospitals and is helping to pay tuition for children in the neighborhood where he grew up.
He has also taken care of himself.
Five years ago, he and his family moved into a four-bedroom, five-bathroom Miami Lakes house that he purchased for $475,000.
He is also the proud owner of a $77,000 black Mercedes-Benz G500 and a $55,000 black Cadillac Escalade EXT.
They sit parked next to a Mercedes SUV, valued at more than $85,000.
Not everybody is celebrating Louima’s lavish lifestyle.
“Do I think the city overpaid?” asked Marvyn Kornberg, who represented Volpe.
“Absolutely. Louima’s now basking in all of these riches, and Volpe’s doing 30 years on what I consider to be an excessive sentence.”
Kornberg blames the Rev. Al Sharpton and other police critics for the racially charged atmosphere that made such a settlement possible.
Sharpton said any focus on the money is just a distraction.
“If you ask him if he’d rather have the millions or the dignity, I’m sure he’d rather not have had the broomstick shoved in his rectum,” Sharpton said.
Louima has since joined Sharpton in his anti-police-brutality crusade, protesting alongside the minister over the fatal police shooting last year of Sean Bell, an unarmed Queens man killed outside a Jamaica strip club on the eve of his wedding.
He has joined the chorus of voices calling for an independent special prosecutor for that case.
Sharpton said Louima gives the Bell family hope for justice.
“Louima’s case is to police brutality what Selma was to voting rights,” Sharpton said.
“It was the case where we crossed the line to believability.”
Attorney Casilda Roper-Simpson, who represented Louima in the early months of his recovery, said she initially had trouble believing such police brutality was possible.
She remembers seeing Louima for the first time in the hospital and, “the thing that stays embedded in my mind about the whole situation is the times he had to retell the story.
“It’s just eerie that someone could do that to another human being.”