By Christopher Twarowski and Rashed Mian
Federal prosecutors alleged in court papers Tuesday that Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota quashed investigations into embattled ex-county correction officer and Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Edward Walsh, who was indicted last year on charges of defrauding taxpayers of more than $80,000 in no-show work.
Detailed in the 58-page pretrial filing in U.S. District Court in Central Islip are assertions that Spota stonewalled several attempts by Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco to investigate Walsh for theft and fraud, and ultimately declined to participate or prosecute. Walsh’s trial begins March 15.
The accusations are the latest bombshells lobbed against the district attorney’s office, which along with the Suffolk County Police Department, has been the subject of an ongoing federal probe sparked by the misdeeds of its disgraced former Police Chief James Burke, who recently pleaded guilty to beating a Smithtown man who’d taken a duffel bag containing Burke’s gun, ammo, sex toys and pornography, and demanding that fellow police officials help cover it up. Federal investigators have reportedly expanded that inquiry to include Christopher McPartland, Spota’s public corruption bureau chief.
Instead of his duties as a lieutenant in the sheriff’s office, where he was employed for more than two decades, prosecutors allege Walsh was out playing golf, gambling, and conducting political work on behalf of the Suffolk County Conservative Party—something he also did within the Suffolk County jail, which is illegal, state court papers.
In January 2015, Walsh was indicted on charges he schemed to steal wages for regular and overtime hours in connection with his employment at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office from January 2011 to April 2014, falsely representing that he’d worked when he had not, and lying to FBI agents about it. He pleaded not guilty.
“Instead of upholding the law, Edward Walsh abused his position and authority and robbed from taxpayers to fund his personal and political activities,” then-U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch stated at the time. “We and our partners in the FBI will continue to root out government fraud wherever we find it.”
In March 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Walsh on two additional criminal charges related to his alleged scheme: theft of funds and wire fraud. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges as well.
Walsh enjoyed a salary of nearly $127,000 in 2015, according to See Through NY, and retired in February, ensuring he’ll also enjoy a generous taxpayer-financed pension, no matter what the outcome of his criminal case.
As Suffolk County Conservative Party leader, Walsh wielded substantial “influence and power,” prosecutors claim in the most recent filings, which emboldened and helped protect him from any ramifications. Each time Sheriff DeMarco, Walsh’s boss, initiated probes into Walsh’s activities or sought to terminate him, say court papers, those efforts died at Spota’s doing.
The district attorney has issued a nearly 850-word statement refuting these claims, which was posted on Spota’s office’s website Wednesday and referred to the Press Friday by a spokesperson in response to a request for comment for this story. [Read Spota’s Full Statement HERE] Among Spota’s rebuttals: It was the district attorney’s office that made referrals to the sheriff’s office regarding complaints against Walsh, it was DeMarco and his office who was responsible for investigating and addressing them, and ultimately, “…it was the Sheriff and his staff who thwarted the District Attorney’s Office, not the other way around.”
Submitted by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert L. Capers and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Catherine M. Mirabile and Raymond A. Tierney, Tuesday’s court filings tell a different tale, chronicling anonymous complaints sent to Demarco in 2007, 2009 and 2010 (two of which were also addressed to Spota) that alleged Walsh was engaged in political activity during work hours and that he doled out “special favors,” including promotions, to Conservative Party members at the Sheriff’s Office. DeMarco instructed an undersheriff to order Walsh to cease the activities in response to the earlier complaints, state the court papers, and personally asked Spota to address the issue in 2010.
When media outlets reported in 2012 that Walsh provided false information on his application for employment with the Sheriff’s Office—allegedly leaving out a December 1984 arrest by the University of Maryland Police Department for a sex offense, his related guilty plea and conviction; as well as a criminal mischief charge by the Nassau County Police Department and subsequent guilty plea to disorderly conduct—DeMarco again sought to investigate, but was “unable to take personnel action,” according to the filings, thus referring to a concerned Suffolk County legislator who’d contacted him about the reports to the Suffolk County Civil Service Department and Spota’s office.
In June 2012, the motion continues, Walsh was detained and photographed during a Suffolk County Police Department raid of an illegal gambling establishment. Despite a report documenting the incident, the photos, and acknowledgement of Walsh’s detainment by Spota and the police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, and attempts by DeMarco and the Sheriff’s Office’s Internal Affairs Unit, again Walsh suffered no ramifications, with Spota poo-pooing the whole ordeal and ultimately killing any investigation, according to the court documents.
“Spota told DeMarco, in sum and substance, not to do anything and that the DA’s Office would take care of it and get back to DeMarco,” reads the filing. “DeMarco will testify that after some time passed, Spota informed DeMarco that the defendant’s conduct was not criminal and that it was not illegal to be a player at an illegal gambling establishment.”
DeMarco will also testify that Spota allegedly quashed another investigation into Walsh in 2014, launched after a widely reported (and still unsolved) botched assassination attempt on Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius. Walsh allegedly told an undersheriff he’d been with Melius at a company shareholder meeting the previous Friday, according to the court papers. In this instance, surveillance of Walsh and another correction officer named Steven Compitello discovered Conservative Party paperwork in the trunk of Walsh’s Sheriff’s Office vehicle. Following Compitello’s arrest by the DA’s Office for grand larceny associated with fraudulent time sheets, and armed with Walsh’s own time sheets and publicly available information from a golf website with dates that Walsh was allegedly playing golf when he should have been at work, DeMarco met with Spota.
Again, Spota swept it all under the rug, allege the court papers:
“According to DeMarco, Spota minimized all of DeMarco’s concerns regarding the defendant, stating, in sum and substance: that the surveillance evidence was not sufficient; that the Conservative Party material in a Sheriff’s Office vehicle was not a big deal; and that the printout of the defendant’s golfing activities did not contain a specific time linked to the defendant’s alleged activities.”
In response to DeMarco’s request for a subpoena for Walsh’s golf records, Spota allegedly stated, “I’m not subpoenaing anything,” according to the motion, which also contains phone call records from Walsh’s cell phone—revealing a bevy of calls between Spota and Walsh around that period.
Another correction officer, Lt. Brian Baisley, supervisor for the Sheriff’s Internal Affairs Unit, is expected to testify that after he warned Walsh about the alleged improprieties, Walsh stated that “if you think that the agency across the river is going to do anything about this, you’re wrong,” and “that guy is not going to do anything about this,” reads the court filing.
“The office across the river” refers to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, which is located across the Peconic River from the Sheriff’s Office, the filing asserts. “Baisley will further testify that the ‘guy’ the defendant was referring to is Spota.”
The district attorney’s March 9 statement [again, Read Spota’s Full Statement HERE], explains things differently, offering a conflicting narrative and timeline.
“The anonymous complaints received about Walsh by the District Attorneys’ Office beginning in March of 2010 were immediately forwarded to Sheriff DeMarco because they were complaints about his office and his employee,” contends Spota’s statement. “Sheriff DeMarco never reported the results of his investigation of these allegations: if he indeed conducted one. The appropriate question to ask is: If the District Attorney was protecting Mr. Walsh, why would he forward the complaints to the Sheriff for action?
“With regard to the Walsh employment application issues; the conduct alleged could never have been the subject of a criminal prosecution by Mr. Spota because the statute of limitations had run out before he was elected District Attorney,” claims the statement. “How this demonstrates anything about the District Attorney’s alleged protection of Walsh is truly mysterious. Why Sheriff DeMarco did not pursue relief against Walsh based on these alleged falsehoods under Article 50 of the NYS Civil Service Law can only be answered by him.”
Addressing the Conservative Party chairman’s detainment during an illegal gambling raid, it asserts:
“Walsh’s presence as a player in an illegal gambling establishment is not criminal. In fact New York State Penal Law section 225.00(3) specifically provides that a person who is a player cannot be charged with a gambling offense. The claim that Mr. Spota ‘failed’ to charge Walsh with any crime related to this incident when he could have is contrary to New York State law and false. Every competent state criminal law practitioner knows a mere player in a game of social chance cannot be charged with a
gambling offense in New York State.”
Regarding the timeline of the Suffolk County district attorney’s interactions with Sheriff DeMarco:
“Beginning on April 25, 2014 and continuing until early August, 2014 when an Internal Affairs investigator was granted permission by DeMarco to advise District Attorney investigators that the case was in fact being investigated by federal authorities it was the Sheriff and his staff who thwarted the District Attorney’s Office, not the other way around.”
The March 8 pretrial filing by federal prosecutors includes eight exhibits, consisting of media reports, copies of the anonymous complaints sent to Sheriff DeMarco and Spota, and other documents. A motion in limine, it requests the admission of the aforementioned “background evidence” and testimony regarding Walsh’s “other bad acts,” as well as the preclusion of Walsh’s mentioning in his opening statement, cross examinations, or introducing evidence about other “bad acts” allegedly committed by unindicted correction officers and/or Sheriff’s Office employees.
Calls to New York State Conservative Party headquarters and Walsh’s Babylon-based attorney William Wexler went unanswered as of press time.