A former Nassau County police commander has admitted to helping cover up a burglary for his friend’s son in a conspiracy that another ex-police brass member was convicted of two months ago.
John Hunter, a retired Deputy Chief of Patrol, pleaded guilty Wednesday at Nassau County court to misdemeanor counts of conspiracy and official misconduct. The 60-year-old Oyster Bay man initially pleaded not guilty to those charges last year.
“I apologize for any embarrassment to the police department that I have loved and served for 35 years,” Hunter told the court. He later declined to comment to reporters while leaving the courtroom.
Judge Mark Cohen sentenced Hunter to three years of probation, 500 hours of community service and gave him a week to pay a $250 surcharge.
“It is fundamental to our democracy that the police…must treat all citizens fairly,” Cohen told Hunter after accepting the plea. “By your actions today…[you] have finally taken responsibility.”
Hunter will also be required to produce a Nassau police academy training video aimed at dissuading police cadets from committing misconduct by learning from his case. His Rockville Centre-based attorney, William Petrillo, said Hunter proposed that idea himself.
“If we wanted to, we could have filled this courtroom and courthouse with his supporters,” Petrillo said in court while noting only a small group of Hunter’s friends and family were among the two dozen in the gallery. “He is genuinely sorry for his actions.”
The plea comes after William Flanagan, the former second deputy police commissioner, was convicted of conspiracy and misconduct charges in February. A jury acquitted the 55-year-old Islip man of receiving reward for official misconduct, a felony.
Prosecutors alleged that Hunter, Flanagan and a third suspect—retired Det. Sgt. Alan Sharpe, 55, of Huntington Station, who’s due back in court May 15—conspired to quash the arrest of Zachary Parker, a 21-year-old Merrick man, for stealing $11,000 in electronics from his alma mater, John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, in 2009.
Parker’s father, Gary, had been affiliated with the Nassau County Police Department Foundation that is fundraising to build a new police academy in a public-private partnership. The younger Parker later pleaded guilty to burglary and was imprisoned upstate after he violated the terms of his probation sentence.
Gary Parker had been identified in court during Flanagan’s trial as an unindicted co-conspirator for using his connections among the police brass in an attempt to keep his son out of jail, but was not arrested himself. Prosecutors also cleared the foundation of wrongdoing.
Zachary Parker is on track for a July 18 completion of the Shock Incarceration Program, a six-month prison boot camp in which graduates become eligible for early release, according to a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Corrections. His start was delayed a month after he got into a fight his first day, but he faced up to three years in prison.
Flanagan has vowed to appeal his conviction. His next court date was adjourned to June 26.
The Nassau County district attorney’s investigators launched a probe into the case and later secured a grand jury indictment against the trio following a 2011 Press expose.
“We brought these cases to make sure that there isn’t one set of rules for the rich and connected and another for everyone else,” District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. “John Hunter violated his oath and the law when he gave special treatment to a wealthy friend’s son, and today’s guilty plea ensures that he will face serious consequences for his conduct.”