Thomas Spota
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota during a press conference in July 2012. (Long Island Press)

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and his top corruption prosecutor were indicted Wednesday for allegedly trying to cover up the ex-police chief’s beating of a suspect five years ago, federal authorities said.

Spota, 76, and Christopher McPartland, 51, the district attorney’s Government Corruption Bureau and investigations chief were charged with four counts: obstruction of justice, conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and obstruct an official proceeding, witness tampering and obstruction of an official proceeding and accessory after the fact to the deprivation of civil rights.

“Prosecutors swear oaths to pursue justice and enforce the law,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde. “Instead of upholding their oaths, these defendants allegedly abused the power of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, attempted to cover up the assault of an in-custody defendant, and attempted to thwart a federal grand jury investigation.”

Federal prosecutors alleged Spota, McPartland and ex-Suffolk police chief James Burke agreed to conceal Burke’s role in beating a suspect that stole from the chief’s SUV in 2012, authorities said. They also talked about using their power to cover up the chief’s attempted cover up of the beating that Burke ultimately pleaded guilty to last year, according to investigators. 

They also allegedly used intimidation, threats and corrupt persuasion to pressure multiple witnesses, including co-conspirators, not to cooperate with the federal investigation, to provide false information, including false testimony under oath and to withhold relevant information from investigators, prosecutors said.

The two men pleaded not guilty Wednesday at Central Islip federal court, were released on $500,000 bond and are due back in court Dec. 1. Burke is currently serving 46 months in prison. The man he beat, Christopher Loeb, was released from prison in January.

“As I have said many times before, Tom Spota must resign,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “The person holding the awesome power to decide whether people go to jail or not cannot effectively serve under federal indictment for corruption.”

Spota previously rebuffed calls to resign after initial reports that he was under federal investigation. He is not running for re-election this November. Robert Clifford, Spota’s spokesman, declined to comment.

 

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.