Long Island Prosecutor Accused of Covering Up Police Brutality

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) – A Long Island district attorney and one of his chief aides were indicted Wednesday on accusations that they covered up a former police chief’s beating of a handcuffed suspect five years ago.

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York returned a four-count indictment against Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota, and Christopher McPartland, the DA office’s chief of investigations and its government corruption bureau.

Both men are charged with conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and obstruct an official proceeding, witness tampering and obstruction of an official proceeding, obstruction of justice, and accessory after the fact to the deprivation of civil rights.

The charges stem from Spota and McPartland’s alleged cover-up of a December 2012 assault of a handcuffed suspect by former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke.

Christopher Loeb, a young heroin addict who eventually pleaded guilty to stealing Burke’s duffel bag of sex toys and pornography, was reportedly handcuffed to an eyebolt on floor of a police interrogation room while Burke repeatedly punched and kicked him.

Burke allegedly tried to force a confession by threatening Loeb with a fatal dose of heroin called a “hot shot.”

Burke pleaded guilty in February 2016 to civil-rights violations and conspiracy to obstruct justice, admitting that he ordered his detectives in the Yaphank, N.Y., office to conceal the assault. He was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison.

Both Spota and McPartland pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to the charges against them.

Their indictment alleges that during numerous meetings and telephone conversations, Spota and McPartland agreed to conceal Burke’s role in the assault and to obstruct and attempt to obstruct the federal investigation in order to protect him.

According to the indictment, Spota and McPartland used intimidation, threats and corrupt persuasion to pressure multiple witnesses, including co- conspirators, not to cooperate with federal investigators and to provide false information.

Prosecutors and the FBI began the investigation into Loeb’s beating in April 2013, later expanding the scope of the probe to include obstruction and attempted obstruction of justice charges.

Bridget Rohde, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement Wednesday, “Instead of upholding their oaths, these defendants allegedly abused the power of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, attempted to cover up the assault of an in-custody defendant, and attempted to thwart a federal grand jury investigation.”

Rohde added, “Abuses of power by law enforcement authorities cannot and will not be tolerated.  There are serious consequences to such actions.”

Spota, 76, was elected 16 years ago as a corruption fighter, while McPartland, 51, was the head of DA’s political corruption unit.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz filed a letter Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler, urging the court to require significant, secured bonds for Spota and McPartland with strict bail conditions to “mitigate the risk of flight and the serious risk that the defendants will continue to obstruct and attempt to obstruct justice, and continue to threaten or intimidate prospective witnesses.”

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