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.
William Flanagan, the ex-Nassau County police commander accused of covering up a burglary for a friend, was described as both a criminal and victim of a “bizarre prosecution” on the first day of his trial Tuesday.
Prosecutors and Flanagan’s defense dispute whether he received bribes for the alleged cover-up, the nature of his relationship with wealthy police donor Gary Parker and whether or not Lorraine Poppe, the principal of John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, backed off her request to press charges against Parker’s son, Zachary, the Merrick man who later admitted stealing electronics from the campus.
“It’s not a case of police discretion, it’s a case of police indiscretion,” said Assistant District Attorney Cristiana McSloy in her opening statement. “He went as far as to orchestrate the return of evidence in an open felony investigation.”
But the ex-second deputy police commissioner’s lawyer, Bruce Barkett, countered that “the allegation here is at its core a bald-faced lie.” He said the gifts were a wedding anniversary present while casting doubt on Flanagan’s role and the significance of returning the stolen property, saying “this is not what it’s cooked up to be.”
Flanagan had pleaded not guilty in March to charges of conspiracy and official misconduct along with former Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Det. Sgt. Alan Sharpe, who are scheduled to be tried separately. Flanagan is alleged to have gotten the case squashed at Parker’s request after attempts by Hunter and Sharpe allegedly failed.
The Nassau courtroom was crowded with current and former members of the police department who came to show support for their former boss as well as officials from the district attorney’s office. But the crowd thinned out when it was time for witnesses to take the stand—and for Barkett to correct his opening statement in which he mistakenly concluded by telling the jury to find his client guilty.
The first witness was Seventh Precinct Officer Samantha Sullivan, who took the theft report from Poppe after the May 2009 theft of a projector—the last in a string of laptops, calculators and other electronics worth nearly $11,000 that Parker stole.
Poppe named Parker as a suspect and wrote in her statement that she wanted him arrested, but Sullivan testified that she crossed out Parker’s name with Poppe’s permission to keep the document “objective” for the investigating detectives.
William Brennen, the East Islip High School principal who was Poppe’s assistant at the time, was the second and final witness of the opening day. He told the court that he and Poppe suspended Parker for five days—the maximum allowed before the district superintendent gets involved.
Parker was seen on surveillance video afterhours the night of the projector theft, despite being banned from being on campus after class, Brennen testified. He said he never had a chance to show investigators the video showing Parker “carrying a satchel containing something of a relative size to a projector” before he got his new job that summer.
Barkett refused to say outside the courtroom whether Flanagan will take the stand. Testimony in the high-profile case resumes Thursday.
Seaford Middle School was evacuated for a bomb threat on Wednesday morning, Nassau County police said.
A police spokeswoman said school officials called 911 at 9:35 a.m. reporting the discovery of “some sort of written threat,” although it wasn’t immediately clear if it was a note or a message written on a wall.
Arson/Bomb Squad detectives are on the scene searching the campus.
The incident comes a day after Elmont High School was put on lockdown when a student brought a toy gun to school.
Nassau County police have arrested a man suspected of shooting and wounding a man in Island Park over the weekend.
Angel Martinez was charged with assault, criminal use of a firearm and criminal possession of a weapon.
Police said the 47-year-old suspect shot the 36-year-old victim in the abdomen after asking to speak to him outside Costa Del Sol Restaurant and Bar on Austin Boulevard near the alleged gunman’s home at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The suspect fled and the victim walked home to Long Beach, where his friend called 911, authorities have said. The victim was taken to a local hospital where he is listed in stable condition with a non-life threatening injury.
Police apprehended Martinez in Wyandanch on Tuesday. He also had an open warrant for disorderly conduct in Hempstead, police said. He will be arraigned Wednesday at First District Court in Hempstead.
Seventy eight days after Sandy, the remaining $51 billion of the $60-billion northeast aid package finally passed the U.S. House of Representatives, sparking praise from Long Island lawmakers who two weeks ago were at war with the Republican majority that initially snubbed superstorm survivors.
“Tonight’s vote to provide $60 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief was an outstanding victory,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who famously blasted House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for the delays. “It is unfortunate that we had to fight so hard to be treated the same as every other state has been treated. But we did fight this bias against the northeast and thank god our residents won.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said, “New Yorkers can finally rest assured that help is on its way. I’m delighted that the House finally passed the Sandy relief bill, but the real heroes are the New Yorkers rebuilding their lives, homes, and businesses.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy released a joint statement saying, “We are grateful to those members of Congress who today pulled together in a unified, bipartisan coalition to assist millions of their fellow Americans … at their greatest time of need.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said he expects the bill to easily pass the Senate and be sent to the President’s desk for signing.
Prosecutors laid out their theory to the jury, who heard allegations that Flanagan received gifts from his friend once burglary charges were dropped against his friend’s son.
Bruce Barket, Flanagan’s defense attorney, argued that the gifts his client received were coincidentally timed and really for Flanagan’s wedding anniversary.
Most disputed, besides Flanagan’s involvement, is whether the principal of John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore wanted charges against the burglar, former student Zachary Parker of Merrick, dropped.
The principal, Lorraine Poppe, is expected to testify in the trial, which will likely last into February. Parker later pled guilty and is serving prison time for the burglary.
Flanagan pleaded not guilty in March to an indictment charging him with official misconduct and conspiracy along with former Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Det. Sgt Alan Sharpe.
Hunter and Sharpe are slated to be tried separately.
Judge Mark Cohen denied motions from Barket calling for a mistrial because he felt the judge was prejudicial when prosecutors objected during his opening statement.
Flangan, Sharpe and Hunter were indicted following a Press expose into benefits given to those who have donated money to a Nassau police nonprofit foundation that is building a new police academy at Nassau Community College.
Nassau County lawmakers have renamed the place where they do the public’s business after Peter Schmitt, the longtime Republican legislative leader who died last fall.
The main chamber inside the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola will be named the Peter J. Schmitt Memorial Legislative Chamber. The measure directing the county Department of Public Works to “install conspicuous signage” passed unanimously Monday.
“Literally and figuratively, he died on the job,” said Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who replaced Schmitt as leader of the chamber’s 10-9 GOP majority. “This would be a very fitting tribute to peter and the work that he’s done.”
Schmitt, who served 17 years since the legislature’s founding, died of a heart attack during an Oct. 3 budget meeting in County Executive Ed Mangano’s office. Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) won the special election to replace him.
“We miss him dearly,” Venditto said before the vote. “It’s been an honor for me to succeed him here.”
Democrats in the legislative minority offered an amendment to have Schmitt share the designation with the late Legis. Barbara Johnson (D-Port Washington), another charter member of the panel who died of breast cancer in April 2000.
Gonsalves said the amendment was not submitted within the required seven days prior to the vote, but called Johnson a friend, “truly a fine legislator and a lady.”