An attorney for the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District testified Tuesday that he personally instructed administrators to press charges against a student whose father was friends with the ex-Nassau County police official accused of helping cover-up the burglar’s crimes.
The testimony from Christopher Powers came a day after two retired detectives and current Nassau police officer took the stand to explain their knowledge of the alleged conspiracy for which William Flanagan, the former second deputy police commissioner, is on trial.
“It was, frankly sir, a very easy call to make,” Powers said of his advising school officials to press charges against the student, Zachary Parker. “It was pretty obvious what was going on,” he testified, referring to how police allegedly did not arrest the Merrick man after the 2009 thefts because of his father’s connections.
Flanagan, ex-Deputy Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Det. Sgt. Alan Sharpe, who will be tried separately, pleaded not guilty to misconduct charges last March following a district attorney’s office investigation sparked by a 2011 Press expose on the alleged cover-up. Parker is now in prison for stealing $11,000 in electronics from John F. Kennedy High School.
Starting off the fourth week of the trial was retired Det. Bruce Coffey, the investigator assigned to the case who faced cross examination Monday from Flanagan’s attorney, Bruce Barket. Hotly contested was Coffey’s testimony that he initially lied to investigators and that Flanagan thanked Coffey for returning the stolen property to the school.
“You just assumed it must be fore what happened two months before?” Barket asked Coffey of Flanagan’s handshake and thanks at a police retirement party in October 2009. “Yes,” Coffey replied.
Coffey admitted to Barket that he originally told the district attorney’s investigators that Lorraine Poppe, the burglarized school’s principal, “waffled” on wanting Parker arrested. Barket peppered him with questions about whether Coffey was lying under oath about the lie while Barket reiterated the defense’s argument that Poppe did waffle.
“I was shocked and scared like anybody else would be,” Coffey testified when Assistant District Atorney Cristiana McSloy asked why he lied at first. “I wasn’t prepared and thats what came to my mind.”
Former Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey sat with Flanagan’s supporters for part of the testimony. Some of those supporters snickered amongst themselves while Barket grilled Coffey.
Also taking the stand Monday was K-9 Unit Police Officer Kyle Poppe, the principal’s nephew who testified that Hunter asked him to ask his aunt about what her intentions were with respect to pressing charges against Parker.
“He said he had a close relationship with the young man,” Poppe told the jury. “He wanted me to put in a good word with my aunt.”
But the officer was skeptical. And after talking it over with his father, a Nassau detective, Poppe returned one of the Hunter’s repeated calls a few days later to decline.
“I told him that I was not going to speak to my aunt…with regards to this issue,” Poppe testified. “She would actually take it as an insult.”
Retired Det. Lt. William Carey, who was a detective sergeant in the Seventh Squad with Coffey and Sharpe at the time of the alleged cover-up, testified that he took a phone call in the summer of 2009 from Flanagan, whom Carey said was inquiring about the JFK case, too.
“William Flanagan asked me if I knew the status of the property that had been stolen from the high school,” Carey said, adding that he was unaware of the latest in the case and could only take a message.
“Before you received that phone call from Mr. Flanagan, to your knowlege, he had no involvement in this case?” asked Aida Leisenring, Barket’s co-counsel. “Correct,” replied Carey.