A judge has upheld conspiracy and official misconduct charges against three former Nassau County police officials stemming from the alleged squashing of a criminal investigation into a wealthy police benefactor’s son.
Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Mark D. Cohen issued a decision Wednesday upholding the charges against former Second Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan, ex-Deputy Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Det. Sgt. Al Sharpe, but it was not released until Saturday.
The three were indicted by a grand jury in February for their role in allegedly suppressing the investigation of a May 2009 break-in at Bellmore’s John F. Kennedy High School, from which more than $11,000 worth of electronic equipment was stolen by Zachary Parker, a student at the school and the son of Gary Parker, a former board member of the nonprofit Nassau County Police Department Foundation.
That incident and the alleged thwarting of the probe and non-arrest of Zachary Parker were the subject of a March 31, 2011 Long Island Press cover story titled “Membership Has Its Privileges: Is NCPD Selling Preferential Treatment?” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice credited the piece with sparking the investigation by her office that led to the officers’ indictment.
That indictment [READ IT HERE] documents a trail of emails, gift cards, the wining and dining of Flanagan, Hunter and other Nassau police brass with dinners and lunches—totaling more than $17,000, a source close to the investigation told the Press in March—from Gary Parker, along with failed attempts to get the school principal to sign a withdrawal of prosecution.
Attorneys for Flanagan, Hunter and Sharpe had sought for the charges to be dismissed, among other arguments, contending that prosecutors’ failure to admit two emails into evidence during the grand jury proceeding had tainted its integrity.
Cohen’s decision rejects that challenge along with their motions to dismiss, finding that prosecutors acted properly throughout the grand jury process and that, if proven, the allegations can constitute the crimes charged. He granted the former police officials’ request for separate trials.
Cohen was assigned the case following two recusals by Nassau County judges.
Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice “welcomes the decision but will have no comment,” her office’s spokesman John Byrne said in an emailed statement.
Flanagan’s attorney, Garden City-based Bruce Barket, was not immediately available for comment.
“These motions are rarely ever granted because the standard for sufficiency in a grand jury is very low,” says William Petrillo of Rockville Centre, who is representing Hunter. “There will be plenty that contradicts the prosecution’s theory at trail.”
Sharpe’s attorney, Mineola-based Anthony M. Grandinette, issued the following statement:
“The decision of Judge Cohen is a determination concerning the legal sufficiency of the indictment, meaning the case can proceed to a jury trial. The decision is not a determination of guilt or innocence. I am confident that when all of the relevant evidence is evaluated by a jury, it will be abundantly clear to all that Alan Sharpe is a decent, hardworking cop, that did nothing wrong.”
Zachary Parker was indicted for burglary, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property following a grand jury investigation and pled guilty to two of the charges in March. He has also been arrested and faced drug charges in Nassau and Broward County, Fla.
Last month he allegedly crashed his car into a stop sign in Hicksville while driving without a license and was charged with leaving the scene. His license had been revoked as part of his probation.
Zachary Parker’s attorney, Mineola-based Marc Gann, tells the Press his client admitted his violation of probation Monday and is expected to be sentenced to one to three years. His next court is Sept. 19.
“The allegations that he got preferential treatment in the past have certainly affected, I think, in many ways, the treatment he’s getting now,” says Gann. “He’s facing harsher penalties as a result of the perception of the benefits that he got in the past.”
—With additional reporting by Jaclyn Gallucci and Timothy Bolger