Ex-prosecutor recalls Louima case on 20th anniversary

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NEW YORK -

It's been two decades, but Abner Louima says he's moved on with his life after being tortured at the hands of several NYPD officers.

Louima was assaulted and sodomized in police custody at the 70th Precinct 20 years ago today. But while he's moved on, accusations of brutality against police officers persist, and a former prosecutor sat down with News 12 for his take on how the Louima case has changed how people perceive police testimony.

"I remember the first feeling, I guess it was shocking disbelief as the facts came out, as we learned more," says Ricard Southard, who is a defense attorney now but served as a prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office in 1997, during Louima's assault. "I think attitude started to change about how believable cops are. That the unthinkable can happen."

Several police officers were accused of violating Louima's civil rights, brutally beating him and sodomizing him with a nightstick in the precinct bathroom. Just one was convicted after admitting to the crimes, and he is serving a 30-year prison sentence.

Southard says the incident changed the public perception of police officers.

"We all knew that certain police officers abused their power, but to what extent, even as a prosecutor, we couldn't imagine," he says. "I think that resonated, pictures. Everyone started taking a closer look at police testimony."

While accusations of NYPD brutality continue today, Southard says he sees some progress. Citizens have cellphones capable of recording video, and police are now wearing body cameras.

And although those measures haven't stopped abuse, they have caught some red-handed.

"Cameras are recording things that the police officers aren't even aware that they're filming," Southard says. "We are seeing evidence of planting evidence."

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