Suffolk Count Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport) at a 2019 news conference.

Suffolk County Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport) was arrested Tuesday for allegedly trying to trade drugs for sexual favors from an undercover police officer posing as a sex worker, authorities said.

Spencer, 53, pleaded not guilty Wednesday at First District Court in Central Islip to felony counts of criminal possession of a narcotic drug with intent to distribute and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

“The allegations being made against Legislator William Spencer are extremely serious,” Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said. “We have very little information, and at this time, I will not be making any further statement. Our thoughts are with his wife and children during this difficult time.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said prosecutors will “hold criminals accountable no matter who they are or what their walk of life is.” The arrest was made following a joint investigation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

WNBC-TV, which broke the story, reported Dr. Spencer drove his county-issued vehicle to meet an undercover investigator posing as a sex worker with whom he thought he could swap two oxycodone pills for sex, but it was a sting operation set up by a task force that was tipped off to Spencer’s alleged behavior after a previous drug investigation. 

Spencer is the second Suffolk legislator to be arrested in about a year. Suffolk Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) was arrested in 2019 on perjury charges resulting from a county ethics law investigation, Suffolk prosecutors have said. Sunderman has pleaded not guilty and remains a sitting lawmaker while that case is pending.

Spencer, a five-term legislator first elected in 2011, is also a minister, Democratic majority leader, chairman of the legislature’s health committee, the first medical doctor currently serving on the legislature, member of the county’s Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, and is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctor with a private practice in Huntington. He was reportedly suspended as chief of otolaryngology at Huntington Hospital.

“This alleged act was an attempt to abuse his position of power and trust, prey on women, and take advantage of those he believed were prisoners of addiction,” Suffolk GOP Chairman Jesse Garcia said. “I hope Dr. Spencer receives the help he needs. Our prayers are with his family during this difficult time, and anyone that may have been a victim not discovered before last night’s arrest.”

Suffolk County Court Judge Pierce Cohalan ordered Spencer free without bail and required the doctor to surrender his passport and any firearms in his possession. He faces up to nine years in prison, if convicted. He is due back in court on Feb. 26.

Sini said the investigation is continuing. 

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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.