A school principal and key witness sparred with a defense attorney who cross examined her Tuesday in the trial of an ex-Nassau County police commander accused of covering up a burglary for a friend.
Bruce Barkett, attorney for former second deputy commissioner William Flanagan, asked Lorraine Poppe, principal of Bellmore’s John F. Kennedy High School, about emails she sent in 2009 as well as conflicting testimony she gave to the grand jury and prosecutors.
“You thought the other event they didn’t need to know about?” Barkett asked Poppe of why she failed to tell prosecutors and grand jurors about one of two meetings with detectives involved in the case.
“I did not recall it,” Poppe said, conceding that she must have been nervous and that her memory was not perfect about events four years prior.
She repeatedly insisted that she never waivered in her request to have Zachary Parker, the son of wealthy police donor and Flanagan’s friend Gary Parker, arrested for stealing $11,000 in electronics from the school in 2009.
Flanagan and two other ex-supervisors being tried separately have pleaded not guilty to covering up the thefts. Zachary Parker pleaded guilty this year to the burglary and is serving prison time after the alleged cover-up was exposed.
“I thought I was being stonewalled and I thought the police department was trying to bury the case,” Poppe told Assistant District Attorney Bernadette Ford during direct examination. “As a [school] district, we do not want to treat wealthy kids different than not so wealthy kids.”
Barkett also questioned Poppe about an email she sent to a detective involved in the case in May 2009 saying she wanted police to put everything “on hold.” Poppe said she wrote that because she needed the school district’s authorization before requesting a student’s arrest and she wanted to determine if Zachary Parker had more stolen property in his possession.
“I wasn’t giving [the detective] an alternative, I was informing him I was speaking with the superintendent about alternatives,” she told the court upon cross examination by Barkett. She testified it was “just part of the process that we go through at the school.”
Poppe, who first took the stand on the second day of the trail last Thursday, is slated to be back in court to offer a third day of testimony Wednesday.