The principal of John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore took the stand to testify Thursday in the trial of the ex-Nassau County police commander accused of covering up a campus burglary for his friend.
Lorraine Poppe was one of five witnesses the jury heard from in the second day of arguments—but her testimony is pivotal for prosecutors trying to prove William Flanagan accepted bribes for helping nix the 2009 theft probe as a favor.
“We wanted to have Zachary arrested,” Poppe testified, referring to former student Zachary Parker, who pleaded guilty this year—after the alleged cover-up was exposed—to stealing more than $11,000 worth of electronics from the school.
The Merrick man is the son of Gary Parker, who Flanagan is accused of accepting Morton’s Steak House gift cards and other gifts from after the former second-deputy police commissioner allegedly saw to it the younger Parker dodged justice.
Judge Mark Cohen recessed the case before prosecutors could conclude direct examination, but Poppe is expected to be back in court Friday. Flanagan’s defense attorney, Bruce Barkett, is expected to question Poppe on an email she sent to her boss suggesting that the district hold off on pressing charges at one point.
But, before Poppe entered the courtroom, Barkett won a motion to bar the prosecution from questioning her about a harassment charge the principal filed against a private investigator the defense attorney hired in the case.
“I don’t want any of this to come up at trial,” Barkett told the court, saying that prosecutors are “trying to make me look bad.”
Poppe had filed the complaint after Barkett’s private investigator tracked her last month to an address where she’s being staying since being displaced by Superstorm Sandy, knocked on her door in the middle of the night and startled her awake before leaving a note for her to call Barkett, according to Assistant District Attorney Bernadette Ford.
“If they asked me ahead of time should they do this, I would have said ‘no,’” Barkett said, calling the move “inappropriate.”
Judge Cohen agreed to exclude the testimony on the grounds that there was “insufficient proof of sufficient probative value.”
Lothar Keller, a 24-year-old friend of Zach Parker’s, also testified Thursday that he turned over to police the stolen laptops and a projector that Parker had given him after Parker’s father called Keller and “said that I would be going down for the stolen stuff.”
Flanagan pleaded not guilty to misconduct, conspiracy and other charges in March 2012 along with former Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Det. Sgt. Alan Sharpe, whose cases were severed from the current one. Opening statements were Tuesday.