By Timothy Bolger and Christopher Twarowski
Several Suffolk County Police Department members were indicted and pleaded guilty to unspecified charges stemming from the case against James Burke, the disgraced ex-chief who admitted to beating a suspect, recently filed court documents show.
The revelation came in a court motion filed Wednesday in state Supreme Court by Garden City-based attorney Bruce Barket, who represents Christopher Loeb, a Smithtown man that Burke beat after police arrested Loeb for stealing from Burke four years ago. Barket is trying to get Loeb’s conviction vacated since Loeb’s confession was coerced and police perjured themselves when Burke ordered subordinates to lie to cover-up the beating, according to the documents.
“Numerous other members of the Suffolk County Police Department have been indicted, and have pled guilty, to crimes committed against Loeb in connection with this incident,” Barket wrote in the motion. “Their identities have not yet been disclosed, and their files are currently sealed because the investigation is still ongoing.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York declined to comment. Suffolk police distanced themselves from those involved.
“No one currently employed by the Suffolk County Police Department has pled guilty to any crimes in connection with Christopher Loeb,” Assistant Police Commissioner Justin Meyers said in a statement, indicating that the indicted officers and detectives left the force prior to their convictions.
Cited within the recent court filing are the testimonies of several Suffolk County Police Department personnel, including detectives Thomas Cottingham, Kenneth Reggensberg, Christopher Nealis, Keith Sinclair, Anthony Leto, and Police Officers Michael Kelly and Brian Draiss.
The case dates back to December 2012, when Loeb—then a 24-year-old heroin addict who was on probation for prior thefts—stole a gym bag containing pornography, sex toys, a gun belt, cigars and other items from Burke’s parked, unoccupied police-issued SUV. The next morning, police and probation officers searched Loeb’s home, arrested him for possession of brass knuckles—discovered during a prior probation search more than a month earlier—and took him to the Fourth Precinct station house, where he was handcuffed and beaten in an interrogation room. Burke took his bag back when it was found in Loeb’s home.
Wednesday’s motion, while making the case for vacating Loeb’s convictions, gives additional insight into the 2012 incident and the roles of Burke and other Suffolk officers in the attack and subsequent cover-up.
“Under the guise of a ‘probation search’ incident to arrest, police conducted a warrantless search at Christopher Loeb’s home to recover a duffel bag containing pornography and a gun belt that had been stolen from Chief of Police James Burke’s car,” it states. “During the search, police tampered with physical evidence, arranged and ‘recreated’ the evidence at the scene for crime scene photographs, and allowed Burke—the purported crime victim—unfettered access to Loeb’s home and the evidence, which Burke was permitted to remove from the scene before it was inventoried.”
Related: Retired Suffolk Police Chief James Burke Arrested, Indicted For Civil Rights Abuses & Coverup
Although Loeb was arrested in his backyard at about 9:35 a.m. on Dec. 14, 2012, the court papers continue, police and probation officers participated in a search of his home, boxing up toys, electronics, identification cards and other property that appeared to be stolen, and packing it into police cars. They concluded the search at about 11:30 a.m. and were about to leave when detectives from the Suffolk County Criminal Intelligence Section arrived inquiring about “police-related” items.
The Intelligence Detectives were told that PBA cards were recovered, according to the legal filing, and police ordered all the items seized to be returned to Loeb’s bedroom and the evidence re-arranged throughout the room in an attempt to “recreate the scene,” before being photographed. Chief Burke was “escorted” throughout the house, it continues, and allowed to tamper with and remove evidence, including all his sex toys and porn collection.
“At the precinct, where Loeb was kept for the next forty-eight hours without being arraigned, Burke and other members of the Suffolk County Police Department repeatedly punched Loeb in the head and ribs, choked him until he lost consciousness, ignored his requests for counsel, threatened to kill him, and arrest and rape his mother to extract confessions from him, and entered false information into official police logs to conceal their misconduct,” Wednesday’s court filing continue.
Subsequently, Burke congratulated those involved, even bragging to others about his attack, later stating it reminded him of his “old days” as a young police officer, and referring to detectives who were present during the assault as his “palace guards.”
Burke also summoned to his office all those who’d witnessed his assault, intent on getting everyone’s “stories straight,” states the recent court documents, and telling the witnesses “that they should agree that he merely ‘popped’ his head in to look at Loeb at the precinct, but that otherwise, nothing happened.”
After Loeb moved to suppress the physical evidence and his statements as a result of the constitutional violations perpetrated by the police, the motion contends, “half-a-dozen police and probation officers lied under oath at the suppression hearing held before this court, but were found credible, resulting in denial of Loeb’s motions to suppress.”
“It was in this posture that Loeb pled guilty to charges that he stole and possessed Chief Burke’s gun belt and ammunition; and even then, he did so while protesting the gross violation of his constitutional rights that had gone unremedied by the court,” it adds.
Following a federal investigation into the incident, Burke was indicted in 2015, pleaded guilty in February to violating Loeb’s civil rights and conspiring to obstruct justice before he was sentenced last month to 46 months in federal prison. Loeb is nearing completion of a three-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty in 2014 to a weapons possession charge in connection with the case.
Burke’s admission and the aforementioned indictments of other Suffolk law enforcement members, argues Barket’s motion, renders Loeb’s plea invalid and justifies vacating Loeb’s convictions.
Reports of the indictments came a week after a female escort held a news conference to allege that Burke paid her for sex during a drug-fueled Oak Beach house party in the summer of 2011. Burke’s attorney called the claims “false and slanderous.”